December 23, 2007

Nativity


You can read some Auden here. He wrote a Christmas cycle. Who knew?

Then may you "put aside all earthly cares." After all, they'll be back soon enough.

Global Warming? Screw the Polar Bears!


Amazing Grace Techno - Computer Controlled Christmas Lights from Richard Holdman on Vimeo.

HT: Gerard

December 22, 2007

Let's Get This Over With, or, Dark Suits and Red Ties

My jaded and jaundiced view of the endless campaign was epitomized in a post listing 10 activities preferable to following the dreary rituals of our overripe demi-democracy. It might as well have been inflated by an order of magnitude and included making paper snowflakes and igniting farts.

Others, such is the inimitable and briefly hiatal Larison, as well as the paid handicappers, have more than made up for my reticence on the subject.

If this is a blog that started out mostly political, I suppose, as one who rips the bandaid off quickly, it is time to divagate on the would be POTUSes. I will leave out the purely quixotic efforts, such as those of poor Mike Gravel, Chris Dodd, and Slow Joe Biden, not to speak of Dennis Kucinich, the Evil Elf. Tancredo and Brownback have spared themselves being flogged by my wisdom by dropping out. Dodd and Slow Joe, although sadly mistaken about everything except what shoes to wear, do deserve better. In a parliamentary system, they'd be ministers, if not prime.

So, here goes. A general note--candidates' positions tell us something about them, but how many of them have already shown a tendency to tergiversation, and how many Presidents in the past did the exact opposite of what they promised during the campaign. Hence, character and biography are as important as stated positions.

Donkeys

Hillary. The late Leonid Breznev used to mangle speeches about tractor production and Marxist dogma to the "loud and stormy" applause of ten thousand sycophants. Whenever I see this lady, my thoughts turn to the mouldering and decidedly non-meteoric Leonid. She's earnest and dull.

In mitigation, she's dogged and disciplined. When she brought her carpetbag to New York state, she slogged through every apple-knocking corner of the state. I suspect she reads the briefing books and did her assigned reading in American History, which puts her head and shoulders over Chimphitler and much of the competition.

Although some believe she's a secret Bolshie fanatic, others on the Left think she's a sellout only a couple of degrees to port of the simian incumbent and prepared to say anything at all to get elected. Certainly she can be imperious (as in Travelgate), and the Clintons are dangerous to their friends.

Obama. I confess I don't know what the shouting is about. Obama's a mulatto who talks nice and for the nonce has given up pounding the racial drums. He gives a coherent speech, and has virtually no experience relevant to the office. He says stupid things, such as expressing a willingness to talk to hostile heads of state without preparation and being willing to send troops into Pakistan without permission. The country is Oprahfied enough as it is.

Edwards. Another lightweight on experience. I can overlook his pretty-boy hairdo, which seems to be a trait of a certain kind of Southern Protestant. I can even swallow my annoyance at the thought of another cracker in the White House. If I thought his demagogic populism betokened a bit of nationalism on immigration and trade, and a principled anti-interventionism, I'd be tempted to overlook the likely statist implementation of his populism.

It doesn't matter, of course. He can't win the nomination, even if he does win Iowa, which is a slight possibility. He might be smarter than we all think, though.

Elephants

Giuliani. Rudy's still technically the leader. He does seem the smartest of the bunch, and perhaps it's my New York background that makes me sympathize with the guy's style, in spite of myself. And he did stand up to the race hustlers when Mayor, and showed concern about protecting the middle class, and not just the parasitic underclass beloved of the New York Times and other despicable institutions.

However, he has two strikes. He's surrounded himself with the likes of the maniacal Norman Podhoretz and thus seems likely to be the most intransigent and aggressive in international affairs, regardless of the wisdom of such a course. Secondly, he's shown himself to be impervious to constitutional and prudential constraints on his power. Perp-walking stockbrokers whose lawyers would have quietly surrendered them betokens a hunger for publicity and power. I have a visceral distaste for abusive prosecutors; Rudy was one.

Romney. As some say of Jews, "Some of my best friends are Mormons." Romney, however, sets my teeth on edge and makes my skin crawl. He's not only phony, or at least anachronistic, in manner, but appears to be a tergiversating opportunist. Mitt Headroom. I'd almost prefer Hillary's ponderous Brezhnev imitation to having to listen to this guy for 4 or 8 years. GWB's lateralized /s/ was bad enough. What Hugh Hewitt sees in Romney, I'll never know.

Huckabee. The guy's likeable and relaxed, and the GOP Establishment hates him. All of this makes him interesting. However, he's short on experience, unclear on foreign policy, and his closet hasn't been vetted for skeletons. His numbers are starting to decline as the spotlight shines on him. Talk to me in a month if he's still in contention.

McCain. I despise campaign finance reform as an attack on free speech, disagree strongly with McCain's stance on immigration, and disliked his support of the deal on judges. However, he's personally brave, smarter than most of the field, and is his own guy, calling things as he sees them, even doubling down on Iraq when others were tip-toeing away. I now think starting the enterprise was a mistake, but unlike some war opponents, I'd like to get out of there with something that might pass for victory. McCain seems to be getting a second wind. Even if he's grouchy, he has a lot more character than the others. And in spite of his views on Iraq, men with military experience, unless they're maniacs, know what war is like, and are less likely to start one just to prove they have cojones.

Thompson. Nice guy. Lightweight. He didn't catch fire. He's history.

Paul. The man, like many libertarians, comes off as a bit of a crank and has an odd gaggle of supporters, as one expects of any "outsider" candidate. However, he's for small government, he's anti-interventionist, backs off libertarian dogma enough to be tough on immigration, and seems genuinely lacking in the usual vanity of politicos. At least as long as I don't have to confront the possibility of him actually winning, he has my vote. If I actually have to think about the gold standard and the Federal Reserve, I'll have to ponder the man's views more closely.
For all his centralizing authoritarianism, looking at our choices, I envy the Russians their Putin.

December 20, 2007

He's a Real Pissant



Is Continental Philosophy the new Texas Hold 'em?

HT: the otherwise highly dubious JPod.

December 16, 2007

Mike the Huckabee

A one... two-- A one... two... three... four…
A Huckabee, neo-conically,
May, inside the Beltway, half not be;
But a Huckabee has got to be,
For those who think evangelically.

But can Huckabee be said to be
Or not to be an entire bee
When half the bee is not a bee
Due to its ex-obesity?

Singing...
La dee dee, one two three,
Mike the Huckabee.
A B C D E F G,
Mike the Huckabee

Is this unknown Ozark bee,
Of sudden notoriety,
Some freak from a menagerie?
No! It’s Mike the Huckabee.

Fiddle de dum, Fiddle de dee,
Mike the Huckabee.
Ho ho ho, tee hee hee,
Mike the Huckabee.

Will they love this new-found Huckabee
Anoint him accidentally,
This winter in the GOP,
Or is he another Connally?

Who was this Connally?
I don’t remember . . .
The end

(With apologies to Monty Python and Eric the Half-a-Bee).

December 3, 2007

Separated Before Excavation?


Olmec Head vs. Caudillo head.

Infeliz

Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela, has narrowly lost the constitutional referendum that would have established him potentially as President for life, given him powers to appoint deputies to run local governments, and also institute such measures as a six-hour day.

Chavez is frequently viewed by hostile commentators as a "fascist," a potential dictator, and a threat to the US, which he spares no occasions to lambaste, using the US as a foil for his lengthy TV monologues.

What sort of dictator, one might ask, subjects himself to an electoral test, and acknowledges defeat in a popular election?

In fact, Chavez is neither some kind of honorary Bolshevik, as certain soi-disant Marxist acolytes claim, nor a fascist, if that term is to mean anything other than "a politician I dislike." He is rather a combination of two Latin American archetypes--the populist caudillo and the autodidact (self-educated) egomaniac. Far from having a coherent political philosophy or program, these types improvise, throwing sops, emotional and financial, to the masses of the poor, while concentrating their own power and spinning out their interminable egomaniacal rants.

Many of the Chavez-haters in America, of course, are democratists, who think of that benighted system as the supreme political good. Why Chavez's use of the populist-democratic initiative or plebiscite makes him a fascist, but the waving of purple fingers in Iraq turned that benighted land into a democracy is a question these folks won't answer.

The fact is that Chavez is a classic democratic type, much like the unfortunate Roosevelt or the archetypal Huey Long. When there is a mass of poor people or even not-so-poor people with a dependent outlook, tax and tax and tax, spend and spend and spend, elect and elect and elect is a classic and effective strategy. It makes for waste, debt and the undermining of national character, but never mind. It's democracy.

For the moment, the Infeliz overreached, Venezuela balked, and rather than cheat, he took a step back.

Go figure.

November 28, 2007

Speed Bump Dog

Who knew, that "south of the border" in South Carolina (!) there is a "Mexican" theme park?

I was told years ago that California was a giant Donald Duck clutching a hot dog in its beak. Carolina is californicated now.

More pix here.

November 26, 2007

Separated at Birth?

His faithful servant Algor, and Pakistani Kleptocrat Nawaz Sharif.

November 21, 2007

What War Is Like

Want to know what war is like? Read this.

November 19, 2007

Genius or Pompous Ass?

cash advance


So this blog is rated on readability, if you believe this sort of thing.

Either, gentle reader, you are a genius, or I am a pedant.

Or maybe both are true.

HT: Larison.

An Adoptee's Poem

Scattered Among Many

Two silhouettes linger in a narrow hallway
the crisp tie rested on his chest and
her delicate smile seemed at ease.
walking the clanking path my eyes
were slanted sharply escaping the
foreign faces
the rubber soles grazed against
the floor
I remember the precise moment

Still of all the visions that enthralled my eyes
The one repeating continuously
Like a broken tape player spitting out
The same verse
My hands clutched the side of the bag
As I proceeded further
Towards the two strangers
Perplexed with out thought I waited
To exhale
a drop of tear glided on my cheek
my eyes slant once more
staring at the pale window
children’s voices echoed like a hymn
Then a grip clasped my hands
Sweeping me from a place
Once forgotten but
Rests within the memories
Scattered among many
The NY Times is running a blog of personal writings about adoption. The above poem is by a girl, now a teenager, who was adopted from an orphanage in Vietnam, remembering the precise moment she first saw her adoptive parents.

I will let the poem speak for itself.

November 17, 2007

Hollywood's Red Decade

One of my hobbyhorses has been the deification of the Hollywood Ten, Hollywood writers who were prosecuted for refusing to testify before a Congressional committee investigating communist influence in filmland.

The business of interrogating people about their political views is, to be sure, unsavory. But these guys really were supporters of Stalin, a mass murderer. Why they should be given a bye when any hint of Nazi sympathies makes one a pariah has never been clear to me.

In this post, J.K.Dunn regales us with snippets about some of the pro-Russian propaganda films of the WWII era, encouraged by FDR, who feared that suspicion of the alliance with Stalin would harm his 1944 campaign. Dunn writes:
There are good reasons why the left doesn't claim these films. Instead, they try to take credit for other, unrelated films: film noir, which is supposed to represent a "Marxist critique of American society". (This is nonsense - almost none of the noir film-makers were leftists of any sort. Like all film buffs, I have my own theory concerning noir, which we don't have the space for here.), and the "social problem" films of the late 40s through the 50s, such as Gentleman's Agreement, No Way Out, and On the Waterfront. But the Hollywood Reds were either blacklisted or doing time during the heyday of these pictures. With few exceptions (Laurents wrote one, Home of the Brave), social problem films were liberal propositions.

No better example of the intellectual and artistic bankruptcy of the left exists than these films. They should have been allowed to make as many as they wanted. No blacklist, no Congressional hearings, no interference whatsoever. A couple dozen more like these and Hollywood communism would have been relegated to comic relief. Left alone, they'd have knocked themselves out.

November 15, 2007

I'm Just a Sentimental Old Fool

I'm a sucker for anything involving little kids. Here's the story:
This is John Gebhardt in Iraq. His wife Mindy reports that this little girl's entire family was executed. The insurgents intended on executing this little girl, too. In fact, they tried by shooting her in the head. But miraculously, this little girl lived, but is obviously suffering while her body tries to heal. She cries and moans incessantly, but John is able to calm her. The nurses where she's being treated say John's the only one she clings to. So John and this little Iraqi girl have slept for the last four nights in that chair so that she can continue to heal after her injury.
The politics of the war is one thing. Any act of love is another.

HT: Duane Patterson

November 13, 2007

On se souvient

This Québequois song show a nostalgia, and not for mud:


HT: Dreher.

C'est triste, ça.

November 10, 2007

Vegetable Love

Rick Lee has been posting vegetable pics from his Thursday night shopping trips forever and a day.

As Andrew Marvell wrote:
Our vegetable love shall grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow.

The Polymer Candidate

Hugh Hewitt is a nice guy and a partisan Republican. I think he's Pollyannaish about the Iraq war and too much of an interventionist, but that's by the bye.

In this post, he argues that social conservatives shouldn't support Huckabee because Romney is the only conservative who has a chance against Giuliani. He pooh-poohs the notion of Romney's plasticity.
Robert Redford thinks Mitt Romney and all Mormons are "plastic," which is one of the funniest Hollywood yelps in a long, long time. I guess he's in a position to know plastic.
He's right about the anti-Mormon generalization here, but wrong about Romney. The only question is whether he's polystyrene or polyethylene. He's also a complete opportunist on social issues. Giuliani at least doesn't pander--what you see is what you get.

I don't get what his supporters see in Romney.

November 9, 2007

Ethnic Cleansing in Los Angeles

What started as a feel-good discussion on ways to reduce racial bias quickly turned into a freewheeling debate today as the Los Angeles City Council voted to declare a "symbolic moratorium" regarding the use of a common slur against African Americans.

Voting 11 to 0 on a resolution by Councilman Bernard C. Parks, the council ceremoniously banned the use of the word "nigger" after hearing testimony from lawyer Gloria Allred, a group of civil rights leaders and the owner of the nightclub where "Seinfeld" star Michael Richards used the word repeatedly during a standup routine last year.

The testimony quickly veered into other territory as several African American audience members addressed the council to argue the city had not worked hard enough to protect its black residents from gang members of Mexican descent.

"This is a false attempt by Councilman Parks to cover up the fact that they have not done anything with the illegal alien gangs who are killing black Americans in South Los Angeles," said the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, founder of the group Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny.

One speaker said he would prefer a moratorium on gang violence and out-of-wedlock births. Another said that in South Los Angeles, "you have one race of people exterminating another race of people."


The Whale, a.k.a. the LA Times, reports that the City Council adopted a symbolic (and unconstitutional) ban on the "N-word." Speakers pointed out that Mexican/Central American gangs are systematically driving blacks out of their neighborhoods. It's a fact that this is happening, and none of the liberals in LA wants to face it. Thety'd rather ignore it and adopt silly feel-good resolutions.

More "diversity." More mass immigration. More trouble.

November 8, 2007

A Hopeful Sign

Michael Yon has published this picture of Christians in Iraq (joined by Muslims) putting a cross on the dome of a church.

I've become skeptical of the war in Iraq, in concept, and especially in execution, but this is a hopeful sign.

Pressured by Zionism, Islamism, civil conflict in Lebanon, and the Iraq War, Christians have been leaving the region, the most ancient locus of Christianity, for decades, and recent events have made it worse.

So it's encouraging to see this small positive sign.

November 6, 2007

MarsEdit

This and the previous post were created with MarsEdit, a neat Mac blog-editing program that allows one to create posts off-line, and upload them when convenient.

It's very simple to use and gives good results.

More Fake Hate Crimes

Once again, a person associated with a university has been caught faking a hate crime, in this case a Jewish student placing swastikas on her door.

This phenomenon is truly strange. Some people prefer being victims, even imaginary ones, to being themselves. It's a weak version of faking one's own death.

October 23, 2007

We Hang By a Thread

Although we ourselves have been mercifully spared this time, Southern California is burning, and thousands have fled.

These events are in part the playing out of the ecosystems of this region, which are in the main fire-based. Some of the most common plants require fire to germinate. People have made it worse by settling in the midst of this ecosystem and then suppressing the naturally occurring periodic fires, which then become more devastating when they finally occur.

We also may be at the start of a secular drought cycle in the entire Southwest, the kind that may have erased cultures in the past. Or not.

Meanwhile, though General (Yes Ma'am) Sherman is long dead, Atlanta has blithely ignored the drying of the lake upon which its water supply depends, and has less than 3 months' supply and no backup. We have seen in New Orleans that our vaunted civilization is still vulnerable to the vagaries of nature. The builders of Babel were confounded in their pride. Why not us?

We have given in to gluttony, pride and greed, and have chosen to be ruled by mental and moral Pygmies ("You're doing a heckuva job, Brownie.") Why not a reckoning? Lord, have mercy.

October 22, 2007

The Sad Truth About the DC Public Schools

A parent, who in the latter part of the article discloses his race, explains why he sold his home and moved to Virginia.

It's a sad and revealing article, among other things because the effects of immigration play a prominent part in the story.

The teachers' union line that the problem is money won't wash--DC expenditures per pupil are the highest in the country. And if there's a black majority city in the U.S. that's decently run, tell me where it is. I can think of one.

We Need to Import Monkeys From India

The deputy mayor of the Indian capital Delhi has died a day after being attacked by a horde of wild monkeys.

SS Bajwa suffered serious head injuries when he fell from the first-floor terrace of his home on Saturday morning trying to fight off the monkeys.

The city has long struggled to counter its plague of monkeys, which invade government complexes and temples, snatch food and scare passers-by.

The High Court demanded the city find an answer to the problem last year.


--BBC

HT: Truthdig.

October 21, 2007

OK, I'll Do It

I'm old enough not to care whether people think I'm a crank. Truth be told, I'm even a bit proud of it.



Yes, Dr. Paul makes more sense than the rest of those guys.

October 18, 2007

I Couldn't Help It

“Not every child is getting the guidance needed to keep them safe,” said Richard Veilleux, who said his child attends King Middle School. “This is about giving kids who are sexually active the tools that they need.”

--NY Times
The Portland, Maine school board has voted to give middle schoolers access to birth control without parental consent. Presumably, if they are sexually active, tools are the one thing they don't need.

October 10, 2007

Download These


From NASA's wonderful earth observatory. You can subscribe to it here, for free.

I could launch into a litany of NASA's errors and boondoggles, but this stuff is fascinating. Your tax dollars at work, doing amazing things.

Note the city lights from Europe and the Mediterranean, the Arctic ice, the different colors of the water, the dark shade of the Amazon, and the light color of the Sahara.

Hitchens and the Bereaved

I've concluded that Christopher Hitchens (and I) were wrong about the wisdom of the Iraq war, overestimating the competence and wisdom of our leaders and the merits of exporting our institutions to such a different place.

Mark Daily, an apparently quite admirable young man, volunteered to fight in part because he read Hitchens and was persuaded by what he read. He was killed in Iraq.

Now Hitchens has come to know the family, and writes about the experience. An interesting read. Here's a "fair use" portion of the end:
As one who used to advocate strongly for the liberation of Iraq (perhaps more strongly than I knew), I have grown coarsened and sickened by the degeneration of the struggle: by the sordid news of corruption and brutality (Mark Daily told his father how dismayed he was by the failure of leadership at Abu Ghraib) and by the paltry politicians in Washington and Baghdad who squabble for precedence while lifeblood is spent and spilled by young people whose boots they are not fit to clean. It upsets and angers me more than I can safely say, when I reread Mark's letters and poems and see that—as of course he would—he was magically able to find the noble element in all this, and take more comfort and inspiration from a few plain sentences uttered by a Kurdish man than from all the vapid speeches ever given. Orwell had the same experience when encountering a young volunteer in Barcelona, and realizing with a mixture of sadness and shock that for this kid all the tired old slogans about liberty and justice were actually real. He cursed his own cynicism and disillusionment when he wrote:

For the fly-blown words that make me spew
Still in his ears were holy,
And he was born knowing what I had learned
Out of books and slowly.

However, after a few more verses about the lying and cruelty and stupidity that accompany war, he was still able to do justice to the young man:

But the thing I saw in your face
No power can disinherit:
No bomb that ever burst
Shatters the crystal spirit.

May it be so, then, and may death be not proud to have taken Mark Daily, whom I never knew but whom you now know, and—I hope—miss.

Quite sub specie aeternatis for a professed atheist.

I Feel the Earth Move Under My Feet

Yet another housing complex in South Orange County is slipping and sliding.

The OC Register reports that the earth is moving under the Laguna Summit development, and 48 families have had to leave their homes.

It seems the Mediterranean climate and the relative lack of crime and other urban unpleasantness in Orange County has fueled a decades-long housing boom. Unfortunately, the flatter parts of the county are built up, and developers have been leveling hillsides and creating artificial slopes for a long time, not always with care.

The weak and unstable soil types contribute to frequent landslides and other kinds of movement. I can't complain, I suppose, having made some money suing those responsible. When you have one-party government in the pocket of those who build, this sort of thing is inevitable.

October 2, 2007

Two Christian Convervative Takes on Rudy

Apparently Dr. Dobson has threatened to support a third party candidate if Rudy Giuliani gets the nod. Apparently this twice-divorced, cross-dressing pro-choicer is too much for him, although I suspect it's the New Yorker in the guy that gets to him. After all, Mitt Romney is a Mormon and therefore an Arian, and manages to be both a political chameleon and an automaton.

Joe Carter agrees with the good doctor and goes through a game theory riff to say he'd never vote for Rudy.

The Anchoress reprises the story of the Pharisee and the publican to suggest that the likes of Dobson and Carter are arrogant and self-congratulating.

I think Carter and Dobson are being a bit self-congratulatory on their virtue, and yet--in politics, there's no compulsion to vote for someone you disagree with or even dislike.

I happen to like Rudy's style and recognize that on social issues, the President isn't very important. His judicial appointments are the main thing, and I don't think Rudy will be worse on that score than any of the others. What I fear is that Rudy will be an international adventurist. Appointing the warmonger Norman Podhoretz as a foreign policy adviser is not a good omen.

September 30, 2007

Fake But (Horribly) True

The Jerusalem Post published a story, with pictures, of an honor killing of a 16-year-old girl that supposedly took place in Gaza. Then the story disappeared without explanation.

It turns out that the killings were real, but took place in Iraq, among the Yezidis, a strange neoplatonist, syncretic sect--and these same Yezidis were the targets of a horrendous massacre not too long ago.

I almost posted about the story, taking the reporter, Khaled Abu Toameh, presumably some sort of Arab, to be reliable. Eager to find horror in Gaza, the JP goofed big time. They ought to own up to it.

Meanwhile, very real "honor killings" of girls do happen all over the Middle East, and the killers almost invariably go unpunished.

HT: Roger Simon

UPDATE: To its credit, the JPost has owned up to the mistake, blaming a pro-Fatah propagandist.

Penance

Greg Kandra, a newly minted Roman Catholic deacon, reproduces a fine homily. The core is a story of the sacrament of penance:
One afternoon a few years ago, my wife went to confession down at St. Francis of Assisi, on 32nd St., in Manhattan. It’s one of the few places in the city that has confession all day, every day – in part, because they have enough friars to handle it. They also can be very creative, and know how to teach a valuable lesson, as my wife found out.

When she completed her confession, the priest didn’t tell her to say five Hail Marys or 10 Our Fathers.

Instead, he asked her to go buy a meal for someone who was homeless.

So, my wife left the church and walked a couple blocks, to the Manhattan Mall, where she went to their food court, and put together a meal in a Styrofoam container. Then she went out to the street, to find someone to give it to.

The first lesson of today: you can never find a homeless person when you need one.

She walked all over Greeley Square, and around Herald Square, for blocks, looking for someone, anyone, to give it to.

Finally, she found one lone ragged man crouched on a street corner. She took a deep breath and went up to him. She held out the container and said, “Hi…I bought you dinner.”

He looked at the container, then looked at her, and said:

“It’s not pork, is it? I don’t eat pork.”

It seems my wife had found the one homeless man in New York City who is kosher.

She told him, no. It was lamb.

His face lit up. “Oh,” he said, “that’s great. I like lamb. Thank you!” and he took the meal, and my wife said goodbye and went on her way.

I think that single gesture was much more than an act of penance. It was a gift. And not just to the homeless man. But also to my wife.

She was required to do what the rich man in today’s gospel wouldn’t do: she had to seek out a man everyone else ignores.
The word for sin in Greek is hamartia, which means "missing the mark." This story illustrates how much we miss the mark, every day.

HT: The Anchoress.

PS: I didn't know the Romans let their deacons preach.

Strange New Respect Department, Take Two

The insufferable Frank Rich made a little bit of sense this Sunday. And not a gay reference in sight. Will wonders never cease?
Not every president can be Reagan or J.F.K. or, for that matter, Bill Clinton. But in her case, as in Mr. Gore's in 2000, the performance too often dovetails with the biggest question about her as a leader: Is she so eager to be all things to all people, so reluctant to offend anyone, that we never will learn what she really thinks or how she will really act as president?

So far her post-first-lady record suggests a follower rather than a leader. She still can't offer a credible explanation of why she gave President Bush the authority to go to war in Iraq (or why she voted against the Levin amendment that would have put on some diplomatic brakes). That's because her votes had more to do with hedging her political bets than with principle. Nor has she explained why it took her two years of the war going south to start speaking up against it. She was similarly tardy with her new health care plan, waiting to see what heat Mr. Edwards and Senator Obama took with theirs. She has lagged behind the Democratic curve on issues ranging from the profound (calling for an unequivocal ban on torture) to the trivial (formulating a response to the MoveOn.org Petraeus ad).

* * * *

You don't want to push historical analogies too far, but it's hard not to add that the campaign slogan of that sure winner, Thomas Dewey, had a certain 2008 ring to it: "It's time for a change."

Hillary's certainly dull enough to pull a Dewey, people who dislike her tend to hate her, and a lot of people dislike her.

Let's see. Hillary's Dewey. Romney is Max Headroom (and Phil Gramm). Who are the others?

September 29, 2007

Ahmadinejad at Columbia

I've resisted posting on the kerfuffle surrounding Columbia's invitation to Iranian President Ahmadinejad to speak on campus, Columbia President Lee Bollinger's hostile introduction, and A's speech.

The hysteria from certain circles was notable--especially on Commentary's Contentions blog, from Hugh Hewitt, and the ogress Caroline Glick. When Contentions and Glick, in particular, become hysterical, I become suspicious. These are people for whom every adversary is Hitler and it's eternally 1938. I'm also suspicious of anti-Iranian propaganda because it's part of a run-up to a military assault on Iran, to which I'm very much opposed.

On the other hand, A. is no pussycat. In addition to his apparent involvement in the embassy hostage-taking in the early days of the Islamic Revolution, his régime has been highly repressive toward Iranian universities, he has hosted a conference featuring some of the nastiest holocaust-deniers, and (depending on which translation you read) advocated abolishing the state of Israel or wiping out its inhabitants. The régime of which he's a part is allegedly now supplying weapons to those who are attacking our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Apparently A. awaits the arrival of the Mahdi, the Shi'a Messiah, who will complete the conquest of the world for Islam. None of this makes him very attractive as an invited, official guest of an American university. I agree with Daniel Larison that it would have been better for Columbia not to have extended an official invitation to such an unsavory character:

Manifestly, the man’s views are very often ridiculous, and he is a ranting demagogue, an Iranian Huey Long with less common sense. He is, however, a shrewd political operator who knows how play the angles. To give him a forum is to play into his hands and to treat him as the world leader that he would like to pretend to be. It flatters his ego, builds up his reputation around the world and strengthens his hand at home. It makes the task of those who oppose anti-Iranian warmongers at home harder, it helps stoke the fires of Persophobia and it is in itself a colossal blunder on every level. It is quite one thing to argue that Ahmadinejad is a preposterous demagogue whose rantings pose no threat to anyone but his unfortunate listeners and quite another to pretend that Ahmadinejad is just another citizen in the republic of letters and a participant in free-flowing intellectual debate to whom we issue “sharp challenges,” such as: “Dear boy, wouldn’t you reconsider your slightly troubling claims about the Holocaust?”

The problem with inviting Ahmadinejad is revealed by a simple test: would anyone in an academic institution be willing to vouch for a speaker with similar views if he did not come from a country currently being vilified by our government, or if he were a white European? When Columbia and other universities extend invitations to far, far more reasonable and decent foreign politicians–a Joerg Haider or Filip DeWinter, for instance–then I will begin to believe their claims about a desire for open and active debate. Until then, I will hold the view that such “free speech” and “academic freedom” mean speech and views of which some established consensus already approves.

That said, the follies of the critics are worthy of note.

  • Free speech. This is not a free speech issue. The point is not whether the many is allowed to speak at Columbia, but whether the University should have extended him an official invitation. I doubt Columbia suppresses speakers who advocate Shi'ite Islamism, reserving that honor for opponents of illegal immigration. (The Columbia administration did not suppress Gilchrist's talk, just winked at unofficial suppression). Even if Columbia banned pro-Iranian Islamist speakers, that might be a campus freedom issue, but not a First Amendment matter--that amendment prohibits only government repression of speech.

  • Hitler analogies. Unsavory as A. is, the Hitler analogy is over the top. Iran has funded some unsavory activities, supplied weapons to people we dislike and dabbled in terrorism, to be sure, but it has not made war on anyone, other than Saddam before we did, and not by their own choice. Nor does Iran appear likely to make war on anyone, not even Israel, from whom, under the present régime, it in fact purchased weapons not so long ago. Iran is a second-rate power and will remain so even if it acquires nukes.

  • War drums. The agitation against Columbia's decision to invite A. was in large part powered by people who want the U.S. to bomb Iran. I suspect that these folks created the controversy as a way of inflaming opinion against Iran and those who favor diplomacy over bombs as a way of dealing with the issues raised by Iranian policy. They could play into popular prejudices (partly justified) against namby-pamby academics who would forgive anything in the name of tolerance and multiculturalism.

The opponents changed their tune when Columbia President Lee Bollinger introduced A. with a denunciatory speech. This diatribe won Bollinger points with the bomb Iran crowd, and presumably with potential donors who are pro-Israel and might have been put off by the invitation.

In the Middle East, however, where hospitality is a cardinal virtue, this diatribe played into Ahmadinejad's hands, making Bollinger seem crude, rude and petty.

The Iranians also have questions to ask Bollinger. Lefty blogger Louis Proyect, who has some sort of staff job at Columbia, points out that Columbia has had issues with invitations and honors to unsavory characters in the past, including its award of an honorary degree to the Shah, who was unsavory in his own pro-US way.

Lee Bollinger himself seems to be what is called an infeliz in Spanish, appointed President of Columbia because of his association with the affirmative action program at the University of Michigan.

Like everything else, this overplayed flap will blow over. The issue of relations with Iran will not. The danger of war remains.

September 23, 2007

Wudu Follies

PowerLine is huffing about a move in Indianapolis to provide Muslim cabbies with foot baths at the airport, for the pre-prayer ablutions called wudu. PL is irate.

I don't know why this is such a big deal. If Muslims want to wash their feet and pray, why not let them do it without forcing them into contortions and endangering the sinks?

Perhaps one can construct a constitutional argument that for the government to pay for foot baths is somehow an establishment of religion, although it seems weak to me, in that foot washing has secular purposes. In fact, Establishment Clause jurisprudence is a mess and ought to be loosened up for Christians and Jews, as well as Muslims.

No doubt the PL guys have concerns about jihad, as do I. I would prefer to restrict all immigration and in particular make it harder to immigrate from Muslim countries; why buy a problem? But these guys are here, they're working, and they want to wash their feet. Relax, already.

Frank, Tongue in Cheek

My bête noire, Frank Rich the insufferable, is accessible again, the NY Times's effort to build a successful pay site having failed.

Gay-obsessed as ever, Frank pretends to leap to the defense of poor Larry Craig (with friends like these . . . ). He makes the legitimate point that Craig's arrest is legally questionable; if he'd asked the cop to come to a hotel, it would be no crime thanks to the Supreme Court.

Rich then snarkily proceeds to twit the GOP for not attracting minorities, and suggests it be nicer to the homosexuals closeted in his ranks.

He doesn't comment on the merits, moral, practical, or esthetic, of sex in the loo. That's probably just as well. Rich is annoying enough as it is.

September 15, 2007

Listen to Vladimir

Mr Putin defended his authoritarian style, making clear that he thought a strong president was essential for many years to come as the country had not developed strong enough political parties for a Western-style democracy. Otherwise, he said, there would be chaos. Even in Germany, the system could misfire, as it did after the last election, and the Czech Republic, he said, had been without a government for months.

Mr Putin said that, after he had stepped down, he would not disappear or take up residence in another country. He loved his country and felt rooted to it. But he all but ruled out any return to power for himself in 2012. “In 2012 I hope to find a place where I will be comfortable instead of reading in the Western press nasty things about becoming the new president.”

In a three-hour meeting, the fourth he has held with the same group of Western academics and journalists, Mr Putin demonstrated an extraordinary grasp of detail and statistics and ranged across domestic policy, Iraq, Afghanistan, investment policy, macroeconomics and the future of the various political factions in the Duma.

--The Times

The man actually knows what he's about. He's not some Slavic Voldemort.

Remember diplomacy, fellows?

HT: Larison

Poisonous Pabulum

Americanism is the set of beliefs that has always held this country together in its large embrace. Americanism calls for liberty, equality, and democracy for all mankind. And it urges this nation to promote the American Creed wherever and whenever it can--to be the shining city on a hill, the "last, best hope of earth." Ultimately, Americanism is derived from the Bible. The Bible itself has been a grand unifying force in American society, uniting Christians of many creeds from Eastern Orthodox to Unitarian, and Jews, and Bible-respecting deists like Thomas Jefferson--and many others who respect and honor the Bible whatever their own religious beliefs.

--David Gelernter
This sort of thing used to be heard at a certain kind of patrioteering rally. Don't get me wrong, love of one's place, one's people, one's country is a fine thing. But what is preached here is love of an abstraction, and replacing one's own particular love with a universal imperative. It's like preaching motherhood instead of caring for one's own children. Universal imperatives, usually founded in seemingly praiseworthy ideals, lead to universal bloodshed and universal tyranny. "Americanism" is no different.

Gelernter's is a rather silly and inaccurate reading of the Bible. Whatever interpretation of the Bible one favors, it's certainly not about equality or democracy, and the liberty it preaches is not Bill of Rights liberty but freedom from sin and death. The Bible is the story of particular communities--Israel in the Hebrew Bible, and the followers of Jesus and then the early church in the New Testament--it's not a philosophical, let alone political, manifesto.

For that matter, "democracy" was hardly beloved of the founders. Madison advocated many of the nation's institutions as checks against democracy. Civil society and consensual government are not the same thing as democracy, and as Goethe tells us, equality and liberty are inconsistent. You can't have both. "Legislators and revolutionaries who promise equality and liberty at the same time," he wrote in his Maximen und Reflexionen, "are either psychopaths or mountebanks."

Gelernter's actually not bad on the follies of pacifism and globalism, though horrible in his acceptance of allied propaganda in WWI.

Gelernter was a victim of the unabomber, and apparently quite a fine computer scientist. Too bad he writes political drivel.

September 14, 2007

Islamofascism, Basilisks and Other Mythical Beasts

[T]he type of fascist dogma which is an inherent feature of Islamism.

--James Kirchick

If “fascist” is more than a political swear word, I don’t see how it applies to Islamists, not even Hamas.

If “fascism” as an analytical category has any meaning in the Middle East, it might be applicable to the Ba’ath or the Lebanese Kataeb (Phalange). These are groups founded on a party structure with a strong authority, national/ethnic chauvinism, and a self-conception as future-oriented (”progressive”) revolutionaries. They aren’t sectarian and often appeal to minorities such as Christians and Allawites.

The Islamists, on the other hand, tend to look beyond nationality and ethnicity to a dreamed of pan-Islamic order that will restore an imagined past when sharia reigned. They are reactionary, which fascism is not. (Hamas is a bit more nationalist; although springing from the Ikhwhan (”Muslim Brotherhood’), they put more emphasis on the Palestinian cause than on the Caliphate.

The “Islamofascist” concept appeals to people for whom it is always 1938, and for whom every diplomatic démarche is another Munich. Jihadis are a real threat, perhaps more intractable than the European isms of the Thirties, but they’re not fascists, and it’s not 1938.

Your House Doesn't Exist

Steven Bainbridge is a law professor, blogger, and connoisseur of fine wines.

He reports that he wanted to build an addition to his Los Angeles home, only to be told by the zoning gnomes that officially it didn't exist, and it would take a year before a hearing could be held to determine whether to recognize its existence. Alas, its nonexistence would not afford tax relief--"Not our department," it seems:
I then recovered enough to ask what we had to do to have the existence of our house established, which I thought would be a simple process - after all, you can see it on Google Earth. I was told we would first have to have a hearing to determine whether the street that runs in front of our house is a public street or private road. Given the backlog, it would be about a year before that process could be completed. Then we'd have to have another hearing to establish the existence of our house. Then we'd have to apply for a building permit, geological inspection, etcetera etcetera. At which point, I gave up in despair. After all, I was starting to have visions of being told that we'd have to tear our house down because it doesn't exist, which was getting kind of metaphysical. Anyway, goodbye addition.
Years ago, Paul Goodman wrote a novel, The Empire City. As I recall, the conceit is that the hero is never registered with the Gummint, and thus grows up free. Not a very good novel, as I recall, and a silly, if amusing, conceit.

As for Prof. Bainbridge's plight, no, you can't make this stuff up. Keep your powder dry.

HT: Hewitt.

September 12, 2007

Oy Vey!

Weird and ominous stuff going on in Israel and environs:
  • Israeli planes did something in Syria, leaving fuel tanks in their wake, with the Arab world strangely quiet and the North Koreans whining.

  • Homemade rockets from Gaza wounded some 60 Israeli army recruits, and so far the Israeli response has been mild, even as the Hamas guys in Gaza go into hiding, fearing retaliation.

  • Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, who has zero popularity and might be indicted any day, and feckless Palestinian leader Abbas, who doesn't control half of the potential rump state of Palestine, are talking peace and preparing for an international conference.

  • War drums are beating between Israel and Syria, but neither seems really to want a war now.

  • The Jerusalem Post reports that because Germany won't go along with sanctions against Iran, Washington is planning a bombing campaign against Iran--for the Presidential election season.

  • It's Ramadan and Rosh Hashanah.
Most crises aren't Sarajevo 1914. There are lots of nasty variables knocking around out there, though, and Israel, the US, and Palestine are all run by idiots.

Strange New Respect Department

Could 2010 look for Iraq like 1975 looked in Vietnam? Yes. I just do not see evidence that either the new Iraqi political class or the Iraqi security forces are likely to have the maturity to avoid a conflagration when the US military withdraws.

There are three major wars going on in Iraq: 1) for control of oil-rich Basra, among Shiite militias and tribes; 2) for control of Baghdad and its hinterlands between Sunni Arabs and Shiites; and 3) for control of oil-rich Kirkuk in the north, between Kurds on the one side and Arabs and Turkmen on the other.

Gen. Petraeus believes that the Sunni-Shiite struggle for Baghdad is the central struggle, and that if it cannot be calmed down, nothing can be accomplished. His main energies have been put into reducing violence in Baghdad itself, in which he has succeeded to a limited extent (i.e. getting violence back down to summer, 2006, levels instead of astronomical January 2007 levels).

-- Juan Cole
Juan Cole is a University of Michigan professor who has been a consistent critic of the Iraq War. He was on the short list for a post at Yale, but those who felt him too outspoken helped put the kibosh on the offer. (He's better off in Ann Arbor than New Haven, anyway).

Having started out as a skeptical supporter of the war and more to the point, hostile to the left-wing critics of the war (a hostility I still possess), I was rather dismissive of Cole. However, he has one great advantage. He actually knows something about Shi'ism, Iraq aned Iran. He's written books like this one.

I also think his analysis of the three wars in Iraq is plausible, although I'd add the battle in Anbar between the Sunni tribes and the jihadi fanatics, one source of what passes for modest success in Iraq these days.

Looked at from the perspective of three civil wars, there ain't much we can accomplish with 160,000 troops and an impatient Congress, skeptical media, and unmotivated populace. The guys who thought this up weren't very smart; the people who followed along, as I did were suckers; and whoever manages to get elected president in November 2008 is going to inherit one hell of a problem.

Meanwhile, Cole's all coming up roses.

The University of Chattering Idiots

Our local branch of the University of California, UC Irvine, is known for its (hideous, IMO) post-modern architecture, some distinguished scholars, a money-losing hospital, and its predominantly Asian student body, among other things.

Lately the powers that be have decided to start a law school. We have a few, locally, including Chapman University's which started slow but is getting better and better, so one wonders why we need another. The truth be told, law schools are profit centers. No labs, research on paper and by computer, and alumni who earn good incomes and become generous donors.

So UCI decided to start a law school, and offered the Deanship to one Erwin Chemerinsky, a quite liberal constitutional law scholar who is also bright, diligent, articulate, and probably generous enough in spirit to hire professors of all shades of opinion. Someone, however, wasn't happy that they picked such a liberal guy to head a law school in Orange County, where the machine politicians, some crooked, are in the GOP. So UCI backed out.

Hugh Hewitt, a talk show host and blogger who is a GOP partisan, often has Chemerinsky and Chapman professor John Eastman on his show doing a con law point-counterpoint. He calls them the Smart Guys and lets them talk.

To his credit, Hugh is irate.

The whole thing is hugely embarassing to the University. The episode is worthy of the basest cow college. Whoever is responsible ought to be fired or quit. And having hired Chemerinsky, they ought to hire him back and apologize.

Let me be clear. I don't agree with Chemerinsky about much, and if I were on the hiring committee I probably would have picked someone else, like Justice Kozinski or Eugene Volokh. But Chemerinsky is amply qualified. Firing him because of discomfort with his views is despicable.

Forget about the law school. Open a cosmetology school instead.

UPDATE: The superb Patterico agrees with me on the firing, but like me, wouldn't have hired the guy in the first place. He offers specifics.

Trogs In Tearooms

Back in the day, what were then called "fairies" were abundant in certain circles, notably the arts high and low, from opera to hairdressing, and in certain neighborhoods, such as New York's Greenwich Village. The rubes supposedly weren't aware of metropolitan pansydom, to use another archaic term.

My father, a very straight lawyer, represented lots of designers. Some, from time to time, got caught soliciting vice cops in places such as Riverside Park near the Soldiers and Sailors monument. Dear old Dad was a clever lawyer, and often got them off (no, not THAT way) with tactics such as showing that vice cops seemed always to be solicited in the same exact language.

Paw had three thoughts on this. He couldn't fathom why anyone would want to have anonymous sex in a park; he thought cops should mind their own business unless the boys were frightening the horses; and he didn't want to become a specialist in gay solicitation cases.

Fifty-some years later, my reaction to the Larry Craig case is pretty much the same. What a sordid way for a cop to spend his day! What a pathetic way to get one's ashes hauled! And yet . . . it's a public bathroom in a busy place, folks. Moms send their little boys in when they start to protest being brought into ladies' rooms. I suppose we need vice cops to keep such places safe.

The charge among the liberals is "hypocrisy." But not all of us can conform our behavior to our beliefs. I may believe it's wrong to raise my voice in anger, and still scream at my kids or another driver. That doesn't make me a hypocrite, just a sinner. So if Craig believed that whatever acts he intended to perform were wrong, but couldn't conform his conduct to his beliefs, he's not necessarily a hypocrite.

Now he COULD be a hypocrite, if he doesn't really believe what he says about sexual matters, but preaches on the subject for political advantage. No one knows.

There is, of course, a great tradition of secret faggotry in right-wing circles, from J. Edgar Hoover and Roy Cohn to Richard Bauman to . . . you name it. There is hypocrisy in the fact that inside-the-Beltway and political junkies know about it and really don't care--but oppose the gay political agenda to win votes from the rubes. When I was mixed up in the GOP, gays were everywhere. They had the time to spend and no wives and children to hold them down. Privately accepting what you publicly denounce IS hypocrisy. If you think it's OK, don't pretend otherwise.

Meanwhile, Sen. Craig continues to shoot himself in the foot. If he succeeds in withdrawing his guilty plea, he's in for one hell of an embarrassing trial. Are past similar acts, to show predisposition and modus operandi, admissible under Minnesota law? Why is he putting his wife and kids through this?

Well, at least he hasn't blamed alcohol or gone into rehab. Not yet.

To My Vast Fan Base

TK begs me to return from hiatus.

I have been buried at work and dealing with pesky problems of one sort and another. That's an explanation, not an excuse.

With wide stances, the Petraeus Report, Hsu-gate, and the University of California, Irvine's shenanigans with its new law school--not to speak of reading I've done--there's a rich fishnet full of shiny, smelly stuff to write about.

I promise to do better. Really, I do.

August 31, 2007

Ancestral voices prophesying war !

The DC tom-toms are more insistently beating out a rhythmic warning of a U.S. strike against Iran this fall. Here's Pat Buchanan:

Initially, Americans might cheer the bombing of Iran, and Congress would head for the tall grass. But as U.S. strikes would be an act of war, rallying the Iranians behind the failing regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and igniting a long war the end of which we cannot see and the troops for which we do not have, there are powerful arguments against a new war.

Iran and the United States would both pay a hellish price, and Iran at least seems to recognize it.
If paleocon parades of horribles leave you skeptical, Larison, complete with "our" spellings, links to lefty peacemongers:
Rumours continue to swirl about an attack on Iran before the year is out. Prof. Cole points to this Barnett Rubin item, this author was told by U.S. intelligence sources that his forthcoming book on Iran might be made obsolete by an attack before 2008, and there has been talk that Rove timed his departure to make sure that he was out before it happened. Plans to classify the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organisation certainly fit well with preparation for some sort of military action.

The inimitable Spengler thinks Iran's braggadocio conceals a serious decline, and something between benign neglect and attrition will do the trick unless Iran acquires nuclear weapons:
Iran, I warned on September 13, 2005, is running short of oil and soldiers (Demographics and Iran's imperial design). Its oil exports could fall to zero within only 10 years, according to new studies reviewed in the December 11 Business Week. Iran's circumstances appear far more pressing than I believed a year ago, when the consensus estimate gave Iran another 20 years' worth of oil exports. Apart from oil, Iran exports only dried fruit, pistachio nuts, carpets, caviar and, more recently, prostitutes (Jihads and whores, November 21).
War scenarios abound, both horrific and warmonger optimistic.

The official opposition has not connected its second thoughts about the Iraq adventure to opposition to an Iranian campaign. In fact, even Obama (I was against the war when I was a legislator in Springfield, Illinois) has kowtowed to AIPAC and pimped the Iranian threat.

With Congress quiet and the Dems looking the other way, it's really up to W.

If that notion leaves you with a feeling of calm, call your shrink to up your meds.

August 27, 2007

Bye, Al

It seems that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has called it quits. About time, and giving the lie to those who thought he'd hold fast, given the likelihood that any Bush nominee would get a grilling.

Look for someone squeaky clean, a law-school dean, a judge, or a Senator, who can get through the hearings and make promises to Leahy, Schumer & Co.

Not-So-Sweet Caroline

I've written before about Jerusalem Post writer Caroline Glick.

Glick effectively skewers the folly of the Israeli leaders who gave back tranches of occupied territory in Lebanon and Gaza without negotiating and without getting much in return except a brief respite. She's ruthless and incisive in this regard.

Glick regularly beats the war drums for an attack on Iran, preferably by the United States.

There are many questions, however, that Glick never answers. Here are some:
  • She assumes a unity of interest between the U.S. and Israel. Apparently post-1967, cold warriors in Washington viewed Israel as a useful proxy to take Soviet allies in the Middle East down a peg or two. Pre-1967 and in the post-Soviet world, Glick, American-born and educated, still simply assumes a community of interest between Israel and the U.S. I just don't get it. Nowadays the alliance seems one-sided, with the U.S. having little or nothing to gain from it. War with Iran? Fuggedabadit.

  • Glick opposes Israeli territorial concessions on the West Bank. Given the weakness and unreliability of the Palestinian organizations (brought about in part by past Israeli tactics, to be sure), she has a point. But what then? Does she favor expulsion, perhaps at some opportune moment of crisis? Or incorporation of the territories into Israel? If so, would she offer citizenship to the Palestinian residents? Even if the demographics aren't as favorable to the Arabs and some say, what then? Is she still a for a democratic Israel?

  • What's Glick's rationale for her Zionism? She appears not to be religious. Why does a Jewess from Chicago have more right to live in Palestine than an Arab from Jaffa? And if she chose to leave Chicago for the Holy Land, why does she make such insistent demands on the United States.

  • What's so all-fired great about Israeli democracy? It leads to corrupt leaders, divorced from constituencies, except to distribute state money, for example, to ultra-orthodox who will neither work nor join the Army. Time, it seems to me, for an Israeli DeGaulle, Putin, or Pinochet.
Hey, I'm just askin'.

Two Books

I've recently completed two books, Robert Novak's memoir, The Prince of Darkness, and Thomas Fleming's take on World War I, The Illusion of Victory. Both are good reads.

Novak, an "insider" columnist and TV personality who has gotten more conservative over the years, offers a candid account of the people he's worked with and written about. Refreshingly, Novak is candid about his mistakes as well as the many fools (as he sees it) whom he has had to suffer more or less gladly. He's particularly merciless to Jimmy Carter, whom he calls an inveterate liar, and John McLaughlin, the chat-show host, whose vanity, according to Novak, knows no bounds.

Novak also describes his conversion to Catholicism in a rather matter-of-fact way, and regularly discusses his income, an unusual bit of candor in an autobiography, but interesting nonetheless--what do the chattering classes live on?

The book is remarkably open and honest, and very much a book by a reporter, rather prosaic, full of detail, and invariably interesting.

Fleming, who's a bit of an ideologue when he writes for Chronicles, a very paleoconservative rag, writes as a historican. On display are the courage and innocence of the doughboys who were drafted to die in the fields of France, and of Robert LaFollette, who courageously opposed the war. The preeminent role is played, however, by the horrid Woodrow Wilson, whose sanctimony, inflexibility, and vanity contributed so much to the disastrous outcome of the war, as well as to the atmosphere of repression that dominated the country and echoes to this day.

August 15, 2007

Pushtunwalla, Deobandis, and Gordon Chang

Gordon Chang blogs for Commentary's Contentions, and lately he's in a warlike mood, this time against Pakistan:
Pakistan, unfortunately, is the nation that conclusively disproved the optimistic notions of “realists” like Kenneth Waltz, who argued that nuclear weapons made their custodians responsible. After all, generals like Musharraf watched Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s atomic bomb, make deals with Libya, Iran, North Korea—and, undoubtedly, other nations—for nuclear technology. Two Pakistani nuclear scientists met with al Qaeda representatives in 2000 and 2001, which indicates the strength of the ties between extremist elements and the nation’s nuclear programs. And agents in the country’s Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI, have provided substantial support to al Qaeda and the Taliban. If the country’s military and civilian officials act this way, just imagine what its rogue elements will do. It’s safe to say that there are few responsible custodians of nuclear weaponry in the Pakistani government.

If fanatics take control of Islamabad, will we be willing to insert our military into Pakistan to secure its arsenal? If we are not, then are we prepared to let al Qaeda become the world’s 10th nuclear power?

Of course, that would be India's problem more than ours. And moreover, I doubt we know any more about Pakistan’s diverse peoples than we do about Iraq. One thing we can predict–the results of an invasion of Pakistan would be other than unexpected. What do we know about Pushtoonwalla, Baluchi independence movements, zamindars, or the Deobandi?

Gordon Chang is nice enough to engage his commenters, but there seems to be no limit to the military commitments he wants this country to undertake, or the wars he wants to fight.

Such a future is certainly possible. The return of conscription, the tightening of the national security state to George Creel and Mitchell Palmer proportions, Americans raining death on civilians from the air and dying in large numbers, too. If Basiji landing craft were waiting offshore from Atlantic City, we might have no choice; they aren’t.

I prefer a regression to 1897. Reduce foreign entanglements; eliminate excessive dependence on foreign anything, including energy and credit; substantially restrict immigration; adopt enough tariffs and quotas to preserve strategic industries and what’s left of the American working class. Start bringing our troops home from the Old World, and paring down the obsolete commitments that put them there. Forget about using our military to democratize a reluctant world.

Instead, all the candidates with the possible exceptions of Ron Paul and Kucinich, are interventionists, though less openly than Gordon Chang. The Dems want to pare down the Iraq intervention, but that’s about it. Say “Darfur” and they’ll rev up the C-130s. If Olmert decides to drive to Damascus to raise his approval rating over 3% or to hold off the investigators, expect them all to applaud.

Tell the slacker generation to put away their GameBoys and cell phones, and get ready for 40-pound packs, MREs and Kevlar, ’cause that’s where this is going unless we change course.

Fracture

One of the better flicks I've seen lately.

It's a "perfect crime mastermind" vs. "young DA" but well acted by Anthony Hopkins, who can do no wrong, and Ryan Gosling.

It has actual dialogue and engages the brain. Will wonders never cease?

August 13, 2007

Stanley Crouch Tells It Like It Is

Stanley Crouch is a unique, sometimes crotchety voice.

In a column today, he writes of the carnage wreaked in the black community by gang murders, and the strange reluctance of the political class even to talk about it.

That, and the astonishing numbers of incarcerated black men, is a major problem, but not a major political issue. It should be both.

August 11, 2007

Ames

Mitt Headroom got 31 per cent of the vote in the Ames straw poll. That's not so impressive considering how much money he spent.

We have a bizarre situation where Romney's been at or below 10 per cent in the national polls, but polling well in Iowa and New Hampshire. Back-to-back wins in those two states could give him some momentum. On the other hand, with other primaries following so soon afterward, an initial bounce might not mean so much next year.

Cute Baby Pictures

Here.

HT: Rod Dreher.

August 10, 2007

King-Harbor To Close

LA County has decided to close King-Harbor Hospital (formerly King-Drew), because the feds inspected it, found it not up to snuff, and cut off funding.
King-Harbor has been out of compliance with Medicare standards since January 2004, a stretch some experts say was unprecedented and would not have been tolerated at other hospitals. In a five-part series published in December 2004, The Times detailed how the hospital had become one of the worst in the nation by a variety of measures, largely because county supervisors failed to take aggressive action for fear of being branded racist. [Emphasis added].
The hospital was built as a sop to the black community after the 1965 riots, and has been protected as a patronage pot for years.

Now, of course, the Chicanos are on top in L.A. as far as minority politics goes.

Meanwhile, the Supervisors showed they aren't racist by letting a charnel house operate in the black community for years. The Supervisor for that community lives in posh Brentwood, not in her own district.

Air Crash in Polynesia

An Air Moorea Twin Otter that took off from Mo'orea for the seven-minute flight to Tahiti crashed in the sea, killing all aboard, Tahitipresse reports.
“The political knowledge of the average voter has been tested repeatedly, and the scores are impressively low. In polls taken since 1945, a majority of Americans have been unable to name a single branch of government, define the terms ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative,’ and explain what the Bill of Rights is. More than two-thirds have reported that they do not know the substance of Roe v. Wade and what the Food and Drug Administration does. Nearly half do not know that states have two senators and three-quarters do not know the length of a Senate term. More than 50 percent of Americans cannot name their congressman; forty percent cannot name either of their senators. Voters’ notions of government spending are wildly distorted: the public believes that foreign aid consumes twenty-four percent of the federal budget, for instance, though it actually consumes about one percent.”

Louis Menand, from “Fractured Franchise - Are the wrong people voting?” in The New Yorker

HT: Total Buzz.

Jay Leno has been making hay with this for years, going out on the streets and asking very basic questions of passers-by, usually louts with bill caps on backwards.

Ain't democracy wonderful?

August 7, 2007

The GOP Unravels

Power tends to corrupt, and corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.
Lord Acton said it, and it's wise. This piece by John Fund, on the imminent demise of Alaskan porkmeister Ted Stevens and the blindness of the Republican Party, is sad.

It leaves the field open to the Dems, who may well be far worse.

Sad, really.

August 2, 2007

What Price Controls Do

An eerie report from Zimbabwe.
It appears, however, that not even an unchallenged autocrat can repeal the laws of supply and demand.

One month after Mr. Mugabe decreed just that, commanding merchants nationwide to counter 10,000-percent-a-year hyperinflation by slashing prices in half and more, Zimbabwe’s economy is at a halt.

Bread, sugar and cornmeal, staples of every Zimbabwean’s diet, have vanished, seized by mobs who denuded stores like locusts in wheat fields. Meat is virtually nonexistent, even for members of the middle class who have money to buy it on the black market. Gasoline is nearly unobtainable. Hospital patients are dying for lack of basic medical supplies. Power blackouts and water cutoffs are endemic.

So-called "advanced democracies" don't do much better. Their economic folly is just not so extreme or so widespread. Think rent control. Think minimum wage. Think gasoline price controls in times of shortages.

My New Logo

Lileks also came up with this one.

Very appropriate for a Grumpy Old Man.

Porky Commits Seppuku

I've always been amused by cartoons and drawings of animals joyfully contemplating their imminent demise at the hands of carnivorous humans. These are found in Mexican restaurants and small-time fast food joints, mostly.

This French offering is in a class by itself, however.

"The French don't care what they do, actually, so long as they pronounce it properly."

HT: Lileks.

August 1, 2007

Put That High-Octane DNA In Your Pipe, and . . .

The DNA of the people they hire tends to be a little higher octane in terms of aggressiveness and energy,” said Jason E. Klein, president and chief executive of Newspaper National Network, which sells ads on behalf of a variety of newspapers across the country.

--NY Times, on News Corp.'s takeover of the Wall Street Journal
Eye of newt, nitro, and a spark of creativity. That's how to sell advertising.

July 30, 2007

Entrusting Health Care To . . . Idiots?

Mitt "Headroom" Romney boasts of his healthcare plan in Massachusetts.

There's a swarm of flies in Mitt's ointment--doctors aren't signing up to treat patients under the plan. Here's why:
In Massachusetts, the state-subsidized plans, collectively called Commonwealth Care, are provided by private insurance companies. Patients can choose from among six options. Residents who make between one and three times the poverty level ($48,000 for a family of three) are now eligible for coverage under the plan. Doctors are reimbursed by insurance providers -- at below-market rates comparable with Medicaid reimbursements.
Imagine that. We could have government-sponsored steak at $ 1.59 per pound, or gasoline at $ 1.00 a gallon, but Exxon and Safeway won't play.

Would you trust your child's health to a doctor who was stupid enough to sign up for such a plan?

Mitt's supposed to have been a successful businessman. He must be lucky, because he sure don't know economics.

HT: Dr. Bob.

July 26, 2007

Fit for Active Service

Dr. Deb, who runs a mental health blog, retails a report that the Veterans Administration is deliberately misdiagnosing Iraq War vets with post-traumatic stress disorder as having personality disorders (not service-related), to avoid having to treat them.

Sounds plausible, given the way they are treating our veterans.

If true, it's disgusting, and the George Grosz drawing above, a satire on the German Imperial Army, is right on target. So much for "supporting the troops."