February 27, 2007

You'd Be Sad and Cross, Too

the honeybee is sad and cross
and wicked as a weasel
and when he perches on you boss
he leaves a little measle

--archy the cockroach, according to don marquis

Really they are:
In 24 states throughout the country, beekeepers have gone through similar shocks as their bees have been disappearing inexplicably at an alarming rate, threatening not only their livelihoods but also the production of numerous crops, including California almonds, one of the nation’s most profitable.
As with barnyard animals like pigs and chickens, agribusiness has led to the creation of factories with organic parts. The bees are trucked from coast to coast, put to work earlier and earlier in the season, and it's getting harder to find places where the bees on their days off are permitted to forage.

It's no mystery, although the details are unknown. It's classic monoculture. Rather than local varieties of bees that adapt to the ecosystem, we are dealing with masses of bees, presumably genetically alike, on an industrial scale, fed strange concoctions developed in laboratories, and subject to maximal exploitation. Cost-effective enough when it works to drive the small guys out of the business, and fantastically vulnerable.

Old MacDonald is b.k., ee-i-ee-i-o, his chickens live in giant avian concentration camps. If one sneezes, they slaughter them all. Might be bird flu.

No wonder the bees have flown the coop. Wouldn't you, if you could?

February 25, 2007

Throwing the Steering Wheel Out the Window

A classic game theory example is that of two juvenile delinquents of my era playing "chicken." This was a contest in which two cars are driven at top speed toward each other. The driver who veers off first loses. He's the "chicken."

How do you maximize your chances of winning? Throw the steering wheel out the window where your opponent can see you do it. If he's not suicidal, he'll assume that you are, and veer off. You win. He loses.

Unless, of course, neither of you turns off, because he's as crazy as you are. Then you both lose.

Israeli nuclear policy has resembled this game, according to a fascinating paper by Lt. Col. Warner D. Farr, a medical doctor and counterproliferation expert. There are additional complications, because Israel's policies and those of its Arab opponents, especially Egypt, in turn affected the calculations of Israel's backer, the U.S., and Egypt's, the Soviet Union. The brief discussion here assumes that Farr's analysis is generally accurate; it's certainly amply footnoted, sober, and well-reasoned.

HT: The Ape Man, the Chieftain of Seir.

Col. Farr's paper is worth reading. In essence, he argues that U.S. support of Israel with conventional weapons was partly motivated by the fact that Israel possessed, and on several occasions appeared ready to use, a substantial arsenal of nuclear weapons. In an era of "mutual assured destruction," the U.S. feared the consequences of an Israeli first use of such weapons, especially a possible Soviet reaction.

Israel in its infancy was armed by Soviet-influenced Czechoslovakia and by smuggling. Then, as France battled to keep its control over Algeria against Egyptian-supported rebels, France supplied arms and technology to Israel. It was after Israel obtained the bomb, and seriously threatened, as its leaders believed, went on nuclear alert, the U.S. twice (in 1967 and 1973) airlifted conventional weapons to avert an Israeli military defeat and the consequent first use of nukes.

It follows that the vaunted "Israeli lobby," influential though it may be, does not offer the principal explanation for U.S. military support of that country. It is the Israeli sense of danger, exacerbated by its geographical position and post-Hitler anxieties, that motivated its nuclear armament and has triggered its nuclear alerts.

What are a few tanks and aircraft, compared to the risk of nuclear war, especially when the military defeat of Soviet clients represented points for our side? If Israel has unscrewed the steering wheel and has only to snap its wrist to toss it out the window and into the Mediterranean, their U.S. backers were highly motivated to encourage them not to make the toss, and instead to veer at the last minute. Weapons, technology and money offered this encouragement.

The threat of an Iranian nuclear bomb changes the game. Touchy and anxious as the Israelis are, the Iranians manage to appear fanatically irrational. At least President Ahmadinejad does so. The Israelis have some Dolphin-class submarines, presumably nuclear missile capable, but it's a small country with concentrated population centers. When the Iranians first get nukes, if they do, they will have only a small number.

When and if Iran gets nukes will be the time of maximum danger. The aggressor in a nuclear exchange between the two would enjoy substantial advantages, the second-strike capacities of each being limited.

As I've said before, I don't particularly like the Israelis, but they've fought for and won their sovereignty, and the reciprocal expulsion of the Palestinian Arabs and the Jews of the Arab World is different from many such events in the age of nationalism only because the Arab lands have refused to receive and integrate the Palestinian refugees.

Although it might have been greater at one time, the prospect that a Palestinian state created today would control its population enough to ensure a tranquil border is dim. A pragmatic Palestinian dictatorship with efficient and probably brutal police that saw stability as in its interest would be required, and none is on offer.

I don't favor an American attack on Iran, for reasons I've stated before, and question whether on present evidence an Israeli attack on Iran (which will be seen to be U.S,.-sponsored, even if it isn't) is either desirable or possible.

Israel and Iran are in their cars. Gentlemen, start your engines.

We are cursed to live in interesting times.

UPDATE: I'm told the Farr link above is to something other than Farr's paper, which appears to be true, although it's a relevant link. Here's the link to Farr's paper.

Is That All You Blighters Can Do?

The family played a few hands of gin rummy last night. Nancy clobbered us as usual. Considering she's not an autistic savant, she's able to keep lots of numbers in her head.

In my quasi-ADD way, I was ruminating on vocabulary, coming up with groups of four similar-but-not-identical words. Example:




Etc. etc. and so forth.

Do we really need all these words? I.A. Richards and C.K. Ogden made up something called "Basic English" that had 850 words. They claimed that for many purposes, 850 was enough. I used to write high school essays in it without disclosing the fact. I got A's (go figure). I can't resist wondering if Basic English is the opposite of Acidic English, which I like as well.

To be sure, some of the words were like "get," which has innumerable meanings (obtain, impregnate, become, understand -- just for starters).

I enjoy these word games, but I fear it's an affectation, like goosing statues. NB: I originally typed "goosing statutes." That's what I do for a living, not as recreation; I'm a lawyer. That, in turn, could be because I lack manual dexterity (skill, finesse, precision).

¡Pinche Vida! No Es Posible

Marc Cooper laments Cuba's expulsion of 3 foreign journalists who were too nosy or too critical. Marc is one of those leftists who favors both democracy and socialism. He perorates:
For the umpteenth time I will repeat that the most effective and constructive criticism of Cuba's authoritarianism and curtailment of freedom would be that which comes from the Left not the Right. Too bad there is virtually none. We'll see if anyone except CPJ [Committee to Protect Journalists] hiccups over these expulsions. I doubt it.
Cooper combox regular Bunkerbuster says "There may well be a tiny handful of fringe leftists who support the Castro regime, but no mainstream liberals do."

Immediately thereafter a (not THE) Walter Lippman rushes in to explain away Cuba's dictatorship:
Cuba is the only country on the planet where military base belonging to a hostile foreign power which is publicly committed to the overthrow of Cuba’s government and the social system which it represents continues to illegally occupy national soil. This leads Cuba to sometimes have what I like to call a paranoid political style. But it is completely understandable under the circumstances.
This rationale is familiar. The Bolshevik Revolution was met with Western intervention, and therefore millions had to die. It doesn't matter that the intervention was brief and ineffectual, and the West then saved millions of Russians from famine.

The reality is that socialism and democracy aren't compatible. In fact, there's an inverse proportion--the more socialism, the less democracy. Friedrich von Hayek will explain it all for you.

Moreover, socialists (and liberals, who in their modern incarnation are socialists lite) think they are morally superior to and smarter than other people. Obviously they are entitled to deal harshly with their benighted inferiors.

So they do, while the Marc Coopers lament their cruelty and hope that the next socialist régime will be different. Combining democracy and socialism is to create a catdog or a pushmi-pullyu.

UPDATE: If you visit Walter Lippman's website you'll see the work of a classic Western apologist for socialist dictatorship. I don't think he'd deny that. See the happy faces of the children mir-and-druzhba-ing.

La Nostalgie de la Cigare

She [Hillary] is overproduced and overscripted. "It's not a very big thing to say, 'I made a mistake' on the war, and typical of Hillary Clinton that she can't," Geffen says. "She's so advised by so many smart advisers who are covering every base. I think that America was better served when the candidates were chosen in smoke-filled rooms."

HT: Mickey Kaus. Sometimes, it seems, a cigar is a pillar of the Republic.

The picture is of Congress big Joe Cannon.

February 24, 2007

Making the World Safe For Dem . . .er, Jihad

The Gallup poll (which surveyed 10,000 Muslims in 10 different countries) also revealed that the wealthier and better-educated Muslims are, the more likely they are to be politically radical. So if you ever believed that anti-Western sentiment was an expression of poverty and deprivation, think again. Even more perplexingly, Islamists are more supportive of democracy than Muslim moderates. Those who imagined that the Middle East could be stabilised with a mixture of economic and political reform could not have been more wrong. The richer these people get, the more they favour radical Islamism. And they see democracy as a way of putting the radicals into power.

--Niall Ferguson
Back to the drawing board, Sharansky. That's my purple middle finger, kaffir!

Who Is The Real Mitt Romney?

Larison has been gnawing on Romney like a bulldog on a letter carrier. So I suggested this poll:

Was Mitt Romney
A fake moderate in Mass. and a real conservative now
A real moderate in Mass. and a fake conservative now
Converted to social conservatism by studying stem sell research
Never had any convictions on social issues
pollcode.com free polls

College Merchandising

My 10th grader took the PSAT, the practice college entrance exam, aced the English and did well on the math. She hasn't thought much about colleges, and up to now hasn't wanted to do so, or even to visit campuses we come across in our travels.

Since the scores came out, it's like Christmas in our mailbox, except the mail's not from Land's End or L.L.Bean. Colleges great and small, ones I've heard of and ones I haven't, are deluging her with mail.

All this effort can't be cheap. Many of these outfits are located far from us, and they must send out hundreds of packages for each response. Some are sending emails instead, which is probably wise in our computer-obsessed age.

Many parents in our BoBo town obsess on the college entrance process, as if little Ashley and Todd will repine in ignorance and poverty if they don't get into the University of Wherever. It seems that in reality the colleges are afraid they'll die on the vine, or at least drop in the U.S. News ratings if they don't recruit students with high scores. We need to sharpen our bargaining skills and get them to offer major discounts (called scholarships) from their list prices (pretty much like those for appliances). We also need to turn on our beyessometers (just made that up) to cut through the pretty pictures and platitudes on the promotional literature.

Resort ads always show smiling people waving from golf courses or beaches. Sometimes the toilets are backed up, the food makes you sick, your room is next to an elevator, and the mosquitoes eat you alive. At some colleges, no doubt, the dorms are ratty, half the students are on suicide watch and the other half perpetually drunk, the professors are horny communist drug addicts, the classes in the semiotics of punk rock are taught by shy Chinese graduate students who speak no English, or all of the above. The problem is to figure out which ones.

I wonder if there's college equivalent of Priceline where you can make a last-minute deal, say in August just before freshman classes start, for four years all expenses paid, breakfast and greens fees included, plus use of a late-model car.


Ignorant Sluts, But Thin?

DePauw University is located in rural Indiana and is one of those colleges where fraternities and sororities still reign supreme. The Delta Zeta sorority wasn't big enough to suit the national organization, which sent representatives of whatever the Politburo of a sorority might be.

The New York Times reports that they interviewed all the girls, and evicted all but twelve, apparently the skinniest and most conventionally attractive of the bunch. Six of the twelve quit in disgust. This part of the story is particularly funny-macabre:

A few days after the interviews, national representatives took over the house to hold a recruiting event. They asked most members to stay upstairs in their rooms. To welcome freshmen downstairs, they assembled a meet-and-greet team that included several of the women eventually asked to stay in the sorority, along with some slender women invited from the sorority’s chapter at Indiana University, Ms. Holloway said.

“They had these unassuming freshman girls downstairs with these plastic women from Indiana University, and 25 of my sisters hiding upstairs,” she said. “It was so fake, so completely dehumanized. I said, ‘This calls for a little joke.’ ”

Ms. Holloway put on a wig and some John Lennon rose-colored glasses, burst through the front door during the recruitment event, and skipped around singing “Ooooh! Delta Zeta!” and other chants.

The face of one of the national representatives, she recalled, “was like I’d run over her puppy with my car.”

I haven't posted this to debate the merits of the Greek system.

What I find disturbing is the emphasis on being skinny: ("The 23 members [evicted] included every woman who was overweight. They also included the only black, Korean and Vietnamese members. The dozen students allowed to stay were slender and popular with fraternity men — conventionally pretty women the sorority hoped could attract new recruits.") This is a ridiculous obsession fed both by the media and the medical profession. I've known plenty of women whose fathers rejected them saying they were too fat. Aside from the fact that some of these women weren't fat at all, this kind of behavior to a girl seems incredibly cruel.

Yes, obesity can be a problem. Lack of fitness is much worse, although I doubt the sorority enforcers cared about that. Be skinny, dress fashionably, attract the right boys. Forget about kindness, honor, brains, understanding, talent.

Erin Swisshelm, who quit, has an idea of what's important in young women:
“I had a sister I could go to a bar with if I had boy problems,” said Erin Swisshelm, a junior biochemistry major who withdrew from the sorority in October. “I had a sister I could talk about religion with. I had a sister I could be nerdy about science with. That’s why I liked Delta Zeta, because I had all these amazing women around me.”
I'm not at all a fan of feminism as it is expressed on most campuses or by its national figures, but as a father of girls I find this sequence of events sickening and outrageous.

The President of the University, Robert Bottoms, has expressed concern, according to the Times, in the predictable vague, cautious presidential manner. If my code is right, you can click on his name to email him. His email address is: bbottoms@depauw.edu. Be polite, or don't write.

Babel Resurgent

The big new thing in up-and-coming Asian economies is building absurdly tall office towers.

I don't get it. Are the economics there?

You Don't Have To Be a Catholic Priest . . .

to sexually abuse your parishoners, as this horrid story from Bible Girl shows. And here's an Orthodox Christian one.

You don't even have to be Christian.

HT: Rod Dreher.

February 23, 2007

Moms Gone Wild

There's an amazing article in the Gray Lady today about the latest in PTAs--stay-at-home ex-investment-banker mothers applying "business models" and assorted corporate techniques to elementary school PTAs. Here's a sample:
In Livingston [NJ], the PTA at the Collins School sends out a fat packet about its 55 committees to all new kindergarten families. Some have questioned why a school with 426 students needs so many committees; as one mother pointed out, the House of Representatives runs an entire nation with fewer than half that number (then again, there are all those subcommittees).
This sort of thing happens in affluent suburbs and BoBo towns where intense, hovering mothers with too much of the wrong kind of education take time out from watching The View to engage in this kind of activity.

Of course, PTA madness isn't new. In my Stone Age elementary school days the choice of a PTA President was a cat-and-dog fight. One year my father was outraged because a whispering campaign was started about how awful it would be if the new PTA President turned out not to be Jewish. (Oy vey!)

Whatever became of "Where did you go?" "Out." "What did you do?" "Nothin'." It would be nice if these bourgeois obsessive-compulsives would let their kids alone for five minutes.

This will happen sometime after Congress ends corporate welfare and before the moon turns bloody red.

Pat Buchanan's Amen Corner

NATO is an expensive proposition. We maintain dozens of bases and scores of thousands of troops from Norway to the Balkans, from Spain to the Baltic republics, from the Black Sea to the Irish Sea.

What do we get for this? Why do we tax ourselves to defend rich nations who refuse to defend themselves? Is the security of Europe more important to us than to Europe?

In the early years of World Wars I and II, Europeans implored us to come save them from the Germans. We did. In the early Cold War, Europeans welcomed returning GIs who stood guard in the Fulda Gap.

Now, with the threat gone, the gratitude is gone. Now, with their welfare states eating up their wealth, their peoples aging, their cities filling up with militant migrants, they want America to continue defending them, as they sit in moral judgment on how we go about it.

This isn't an alliance. This isn't a partnership. Time to split the blanket. If they won't defend themselves, let them, as weaker nations have done to stronger states down through the ages, pay tribute.

Sixty years after World War II, 15 years after the Cold War, Europe's defense should become Europe's responsibility.

--Pat Buchanan
I've been saying this ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union. NATO was an anti-Soviet alliance to which the Europeans made only minimal contributions. The Soviets are long gone. The alliance should be over, and our troops should come home.

Instead, we added the former satellite countries to this origami tiger of an alliance, in spite of earlier promises to respect Russia's sphere of influence, or security.

Amen, Pat.

February 22, 2007

Premature But Interesting Poll Results

Giuliani 40%, McCain 18%, Romney 7% (!), Gingrich 10%.


Wait for more twists and turns. It's early days.

February 21, 2007

Something Completely Different

Enough maundering about the sordid state of our world.

Here be naïve drawings of exotic mammals.

HT: The Null Device.

A Tale Told By an Automated Idiot

This link will generate a postmodernist cultural theory paper that signifies absolutely nothing. Here's a sample paragraph:
If one examines Debordist image, one is faced with a choice: either accept Sontagist camp or conclude that sexuality serves to exploit the proletariat, but only if truth is equal to reality. The subject is interpolated into a precapitalist paradigm of reality that includes consciousness as a reality. However, the characteristic theme of the works of Smith is the meaninglessness, and hence the genre, of textual reality.
I don't know how it's done, exactly. Postmodernism is particularly suited for this kind of thing, but no doubt one could generate other kinds of writing. An Obama torrent of platitudes, say.

February 20, 2007

Can't They Just Sit On Them?

One thing the Grumpy Old Man does not seem to understand is how much the US policy in the Middle East is dictated by the fear that the Israelis will use their nukes. As the Chieftain of Seir points out, America never gave much in the way of military aid to Israel until they had the bomb. Then we started shipping over just about everything they wanted.

For a while this policy worked pretty well at keeping Israel’s finger away from the little red button. As long as Israel was confident that their conventional arms were enough to guarantee their safety, the US did not have to worry about Israel setting the whole Middle East alight. If Iran gets the bomb, that will all change….

--The Ape Man
This is an intriguing notion, although one I don't know the record supports. Give them enough tanks and F-16s and they won't be crazed enough to drop the Big One.

I do believe the Egyptians came to the peace table because they knew that Israel could destroy the Aswan High Dam, after which the Nile would wash away the inhabited part of Egypt.

My simian friend also suggests, and I don't disagree, that a nuclear exchange in the Middle East would be a matter of grave concern to us. Presumably that's because a taboo against the use of nukes has persisted for 62 years (since Nagasaki), and once it is broken, detonation of these devices might become commonplace.

That's a substantial risk, but I'm not sure it warrants a preemptive strike against Iran, especially when serious diplomacy seems not to have been tried, and I know that such a strike poses substantial risks, not to speak of moral (just war) questions.

As I commented on his blog, although one can do everything with bayonets except sit on them, the only thing one can do with nuclear weapons is sit on them.


Support for Israel in the U.S. has lately become bafflingly multi-cultural, representing an alliance between diaspora Jews, traditional Zionists and evangelicals. Support from Christian zealots, who now represent about one third of Israel's tourist business, is welcomed even though, according to evangelical doctrine, Judgment Day will bring the ultimate destruction of Israel and death to most of its residents.

The Economist observed this week that "knee jerk defensiveness" of Israel ultimately will erode support for that country around the world, even among Jews. Only 17% of American Jews today regard themselves as "pro-Zionist," the magazine points out, and only 57% say that "caring about Israel is a very important part of being Jewish." And Jimmy Carter only exacerbates these mixed signals with his recent perorations that Israel must "give back" territories to the Palestinians.

Given that the Christian Right and neo-conservatives in this country seem more obsessed with Israel than the Jewish community, the "I" word is becoming a potentially lethal component of today's political dialogue.

--Peter Bart

I have no idea what Bart means. Lethal for whom?


Russia's President Putin gave a speech the other day, complaining about U.S. indifference to international law and U.S. and European disrespect for Russia's national interest.

Max Boot didn't like the speech:
Putin's condemnation of the U.S.' "illegitimate" use of force was no more convincing, given the scorched-earth campaign he has carried out in Chechnya. While insisting that the U.S. needs U.N. sanction for its military actions — which, he failed to note, was granted in Afghanistan and Iraq — he argued that Russia needed no such approval in Chechnya because it was acting in "self-defense." (Try telling that to a Chechen.)


Putin did not win many friends in Munich with such remarks. He alienated the audience even more when he turned from criticizing the U.S. to deriding the innocuous Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which seeks to promote human rights and free elections, as a "vulgar instrument." In fact, Putin did the United States a favor by scaring the Europeans and showing why a transatlantic alliance remains necessary.
Daniel Larison, on the other hand, didn't think the speech was all that bad, and rather sees an unpleasant Russophobia lurking:
Mr. Putin’s speech is an early warning alarm and, I think, an attempt to make Washington see reason. That the speech is, of course, self-serving to some degree and coming from the mouth of an elected authoritarian populist with rather dubious moral authority is really neither here nor there. Putin was saying what most allied governments have been saying in less direct ways and what most friendly (or formerly friendly) nations have been thinking and saying about our government for years.

The question is not, as the incredibly overrated Tom Friedman puts it, “why do remarks like these play so well in Russia today?” (Anyone could answer that question, as Friedman does by discovering that Russians are not all together happy about being encircled and threatened by NATO expansion–you don’t say!) The question is: how, beyond the last round of NATO expansion in 2002, has Mr. Bush managed to so profoundly alienate the government that was the first to offer its support to us after 9/11, and how is it that the appropriate and mutually beneficial cooperation between our two countries has been so grievously jeopardised by six years of pointed confrontation and insults?
Larison goes so far as to suggest that some are "persecuting Putin," summing the matter up as follows:
It is in the context of such dangerous and provocative anti-Russian Western activism that Americans and Europeans need to view the inevitably heavily biased reporting, frequently excessive criticism and ideologically and politically driven commentary that seek to make Putin’s regime appear somehow uniquely abominable and seeks to make Russia, a natural ally against jihadis, once more into an implacable enemy. This does not require us to endorse all of the Putin regime’s actions, nor does it mean that Americans should ignore when legitimate American interests do conflict with those of Russia, as will sometimes happen, but it does require us to be wary about trusting the obsessive vilification of another nation and another government when tension and conflict between America and Russia serve the interests of neither great nation.
Calling this attitude "persecuting" the man is a bit hyperbolic, but our stance vis-à-vìs Russia has indeed been unwise. We don't need to see into Putin's soul to do business with him. Russia is now a regional power (in many regions) that happens to have a legacy of atomic weapons and lots of hydrocarbons. It's also recovering from the nightmare of communism and the grubby aftermath. Putin's régime is overcentralized, at times incompetent, and sometimes brutal. (All three are true of our country as well: think No Child Left Behind, Katrina, and Waco).

We share no common border and have no significant commercial rivalries. Russia is not threatening to gain control of all Eurasia or all Europe, as it once did.

Expanding NATO to Russia's borders and within its sphere of influence when NATO was ripe for dissolution and Russia ceased to be a major threat, overstating the scope and severity of human rights issues, and dissing Putin for an authoritarianism that's milder than Pinochet's, are all provocative acts. It's as if the Max Boots were nostalgic for the Cold War. If it's not a Chinese threat they imagine, it's a resurgent Russia that's in some ways an improvement over its former self, and in others a mere shadow of the former bear astride its hemisphere.

There's little point to these secular anathemas, and there would be even less if this country, notwithstanding the threat to think-tank funding, returned to its older tradition of keeping out of Old World quarrels and keeping our powder dry.

What a concept!

More on Donkey Logic

The logical donkey referred to here is actually known as "Buridan's Ass," but really goes back to none other than Aristotle.

Aristotle is reputed to have been "a bugger for the bottle," but that's an ass of a different color.

Couch Potato Warmongers

I have explained elsewhere why the emptiness of other measures to stop Iran’s bomb and the terrible consequences that would ensue from a nuclear-armed Iran lead to only one conclusion: military action.

--Joshua Muravchik

Whether the US arrives at its showdown with Iran from a position of weakness or strength, willingly or unwillingly, there is no doubt that the confrontation is approaching. And the difference between initiating the confrontation and allowing Iran to initiate it with a nuclear first strike is not a trivial question. It will make a difference of millions of lives. The question of the hour is therefore whether the little time left before the war is being used wisely.

--Caroline Glick

So, according to The New York Sun (and the sources it cites): (1) financial support from groups like AIPAC is indispensable for presidential candidates; (2) the New York Jewish community of "influential" donors is a key part of the "ATM for American politicians"; (3) the issue which they care about most is Iran; and (4) they want a hawkish, hard-line position taken against Iran. And the presidential candidates -- such as Clinton and Edwards -- are embracing AIPAC's anti-Iran position in order to curry favor with that group.

--Glen Greenwald, citing the New York Sun
Meanwhile, the U.S. has placed a naval commander in overall charge of its operations in the Middle East, and is sending another carrier group to the area. Official chatter points to Iranian involvement in the placement of IEDs in Iraq (as if Iranian support for the Shi'a movements and their militias was some radical new departure). So long as we're in Iran, seizing or killing Iranian elements who are actually fighting us in Iraq, sealing the border and the like, come with the territory, but that's not the issue here.

There is substantial private agitation for an attack on Iran, official justification is being created, and the military groundwork is being laid.

If the naval movements and leaks are part of an elaborate scheme to pressure the Iranians to slow down their nuclear program, well and good. The downside would come if the U.S. actually attacked Iran. Aside from the illegality and injustice of such a move, it would be folly.

Iran has serious economic and political problems, but it's also a proud country with a Great Tradition. An attack would very likely provoke a reaction of national solidarity, and strengthen a régime that's showing signs of weakness. It would also further embroil the U.S. in a region it has shown it understands very little, and where it lacks the will for long-term military involvement. Whether the Iranians could retaliate, interfering with oil shipments and initiating worldwide terror attacks, is uncertain. Indeed, although opponents of an assault on Iran tend to emphasize the risks, the U.S. might just get away with it.

Does the possibility that Iran might acquire a nuclear capacity pose a risk to Israel? To some extent, yes, especially when first-strike capacity will at least initially outweigh second-strike capabilities, thus giving an advantage to the nuclear offense. Does it pose a risk to the United States? Not particularly.

Is the Iranian régime the moral equivalent of Saddam Hussein's tyranny? No way. It's a strange mixture of authoritarian republic and theocracy, with many repressive aspects that are repugnant to us, even disgusting. But it's no worse than dozens of dictatorships in the world today. It's peculiarly Shiite, and does not threaten to expand beyond the Gulf region and Lebanon at the improbable worst.

The U.S. alliance with Israel, whatever one may think of it, exists, but it hardly obliges us to fight an unprovoked aggressive war. The interests of the United States and those of Israel (at least as seen by its most hawkish defenders such as the bloodthirsty Ms. Glick and couch-potato warmongers such as Muravchik) diverge on this point, as on others. Israel, contrary to popular belief, is not the 51st state.

In an election season (one can no longer say "year"), that's something most candidates won't say. To point out the reason, apparently, would be antisemitic, or at least "scurrilous."

February 19, 2007

What If the Windmills Are Giants?

Ron Paul is running for President.

He's a small gummint, anti-interventionist, fiscal and social conservative. Wish him luck, but don't start counting chickens.

This May Not Be 100% True, But It's Got Truthiness

It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true that almost any American intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during 'The Star Spangled Banner' than hiring an illegal alien to do their laundry at $3.00 an hour.


February 18, 2007

What If My Every Move At Age 22 Were National News?

It would have been pretty sad:
We -- the hopelessly ordinary -- gawk at these magnificent human disaster areas for whom all the money and fame (and, sometimes, maybe even talent) in the world has profited nothing. Zilch. Zero. Nada. Rien.

Britney Spears. Lindsay Lohan. Paris Hilton. Pete Doherty. They're to today's mass media -- to today's mass media consumers -- what a good train wreck was to silent movies. They're Harold Lloyd hanging from the minute hand of a giant clock 15 stories up.

They're Slim Pickens riding the Big One down to the Apocalypse.

All for our amusement . . . and for our entertainment dollar.

SOMEWHERE, some poor little rich girl's mama cries.

Somewhere, an American media consumer -- leading a life of quiet futility and despair -- sits wide-eyed in front of the television set (or computer screen) waiting for the next human train wreck on Entertainment Tonight.

I am guilty. And so are you.

Somewhere, Britney Spears' mama sits, crying over her daughter adrift in a sea of futile wealth.

Somewhere, Britney Spears' children's souls are being lashed by an invisible bullwhip, the wounds from which will bleed somewhere down the road.
Lord, have mercy.

HT: Rod Dreher.

Amanda's Rezumay

Iowahawk has posted a malicious, gut-busting résumé of the late, great Amanda Marcotte, briefly a blogger for the Breck Girl, John Edwards. Andrea resigned after some tasteless anti-Catholic rants from her personal blog surfaced.

Here's a bit of the rezumay:

St. Edwards University, Austin TX (B.A., honors, 1999). Major: English. Upper division coursework included Feminist Theory (A); Feminist Physics (A); Principles of Feminist Accounting (B+). Strong classwork performance earned nickname of "Cum Laud." Senior Thesis: "The Imperialism of Gender (Casse)Roles: Toward a Deconstructive Feminist Hermuenetics of Postwar Betty Crocker Cookbooks"

Alpine High School, Alpine Texas (1995). Earned diploma despite being surrounded by repulsive hillbilly redneck Texas football godbags. YEEEE-HAWWW!!! Sweet lordy JEEEEZUSSSS we gunna win the big game aginst Permian cuz we been prayin to Robert Tilton to save all them poor lil' fetuses!! So we can turn 'em into Jeebus lovin' 'merkin killbots!! And lissin to some shit-kickin' Toby Keith!! And then we gunna drive by the alienated poetry club goth girl in our pickup trucks and make fun of her and never ask her to prom or realize that she has feelings and is dealing with father issues and can't wait to get out of this goddamn redneck shithole and move to Austin where some people actually appreciate non-conformity. YEEE HAWWW!!!


Alpine High Pepsterettes 1,2
President, Alpine High Sylvia Plath Club 3,4
The Sylvia Plath Club? Priceless.

Read, comme on dit, the whole thing.

February 17, 2007

The Logical Donkey

The funny thing, however, is that if you took your economics courses seriously, they would cripple your drive to make a bundle in the business. The Efficient Markets Hypothesis, for example, really does inspire the old joke about the two University of Chicago professors walking down the street who see a $20 bill lying on the sidewalk. They think about picking it up, but keeping walking because it's much more likely that they are both suffering mutual simultaneous hallucinations than that the free market would be so inefficient as to leave a $20 bill lying around.

--Steve Sailer
This reminds me of the medieval paradox of the perfectly logical donkey, standing between to two identical bales of hay, who starves to death because there's no reason to prefer one bale to the other.

A logical citizen wouldn't vote, either. What are the chances that your one vote is going to make any kind of a difference?

February 16, 2007


Obama, the first black candidate with a real chance at the Democratic nomination, intends to present his policy regarding Israel soon, and his staff has been drafting a speech on the subject.

In his speech, Obama intends to remove any doubts that the Democratic Party's donors and constituents, many of whom are Jewish, may have about his support for Israel.

--Shmuel Rosner in Ha'aretz.
Oh yes, where were we?
In their scurrilous polemic “The Israel Lobby,” John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, professors at the University of Chicago and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government respectively, claim that “the Lobby’s campaign to quash debate about Israel is unhealthy for democracy.”

--Daniel Johnson
Although Sen. Obama will criticize Bush on Iraq in the midst of his platitudinous discourse, he's not dumb enough to criticize U.S. Israel policy.

February 15, 2007

I'm Not Disaffected, It's the Country That's Going To Hell In a Handbasket

Larison put me on to this on-line poliical typology test.

I emerged as "disaffected."
Basic Description
Disaffecteds are deeply cynical about government and unsatisfied with both their own economic situation and the overall state of the nation. Under heavy financial pressure personally, this group is deeply concerned about immigration and environmental policies, particularly to the extent that they affect jobs. Alienated from politics, Disaffecteds have little interest in keeping up with news about politics and government, and few participated in the last election.

Defining Values
Despite personal financial strain – and belief that success is mostly beyond a person’s control – Disaffecteds are the only moderate supporters of government welfare and assistance to the poor. Strongly oppose immigration as well as regulatory and environmental policies on the grounds that government is ineffective and such measures cost jobs.

Who They Are
Less educated (70% have attended no college, compared with 49% nationwide) and predominantly male (57%). While a majority (60%) leans Republican, three-in-ten are strict independents, triple the national rate. Disaffecteds live in all parts of the country, though somewhat more are from rural and suburban areas than urban.

Lifestyle Notes

Somewhat higher percentage report having a gun in the home than the national average, and 42% report someone in their house has been unemployed in the past year.
Somebody's missing something. I'm not a gap-toothed mountain man looking for black helicopters.

I just know the country is going to Hell in a handbasket, dammit. And if you want my guns you can pry them off of my cold, dead fingers.

February 11, 2007

The "What Ifs" of Emancipation

A blogger known as "the Ape Man" is shocked by Larison's characterization of Lincoln as a "tyrant" and my pondering the justice of that rather severe historical judgment.

My sin in the pongid world is to have asked whether, if the North had let the South go without war, slavery would have long persisted in the South. I can also ask whether, given the blood spilled in the War and the rapid turn away from Reconstruction, Lincoln was far-sighted, bloody-minded, or a bit of both.

Brazil abolished slavery without a war in 1888. In 1871, the “Free Womb” law passed, making all children of slave mothers free at birth. In 1885 the “Sexagenarian Law” passed, freeing all slaves when they reached 65, and in 1888 slavery was abolished in its entirety.

The U.S. Civil War started in 1861, and the official story was that it was being fought to preserve the Union, which continued to include slave states. Pressure for emancipation grew in the North, and in 1862-1863 Lincoln used his war powers to issue proclamations that declared slaves free in rebel States. It was part of a strategy, combined with blockade and the depredations of Sherman, among other things, to destroy the Southern economy.

If the Confederacy had simply been allowed to secede, where would the room to expand, apparently necessary to the slave system, have come from? Would slavery have been compatible with a more advanced technology? Would the South have evolved toward emancipation, as did Brazil? In fact, by 1876, white supremacy came roaring back, not seriously challenged until 3/4 of a century later.

The “what ifs” are all conjectural history, of course, but whatever the truth and whatever the real goal of the North’s war, the 600,000 dead and countless maimed was a very high price to pay, as was the unleashing of industrial-scale warfare. The carnage of the Civil War was unrivaled until the maniacal slaughter of World War I, fought, if one accepts the sanctimony of Woodrow Wilson, to “make the world safe for democracy,” but in fact opening the door to Bolshevism, fascism and Nazism.

Lincoln is justly remembered as larger than life, a fascinating and eloquent figure, whose victory opened the way to the modern, industrial United States, for good or ill. Southern nostalgia generally gives slavery the once-over-lightly. Was there another possible outcome?


A Baby With Attitude

This is my newborn cousin, Robin.

Note the finger.

I like her style.

February 8, 2007

Paving Hell

Well first of all, I think, again, to be fair, the American troops were greeted as liberators. We saw it. It lasted very briefly, it was exhausted quickly by the looting and the astonishment and puzzlement and finally anger of Iraqis that nothing, or very little was done to stop that.


I suppose you'd have to say people like myself enabled what happened, the decisions made here to go into Iraq and I'm not going to apologize for that. I've been to, I think many of the world's nastiest places in a 30 year career as a foreign correspondent for the New York Times and Iraq was, by a long way saving only North Korea, the nastiest place I've ever been. It was a truly terrible place and what I think we were transfixed by was the notion that if you could remove this of carapace of terror and you could liberate the Iraqi people, many good things would happen. We just didn't understand, and perhaps didn't work hard enough to understand, what lay beneath this carapace which is a deeply fractured society that had always been held together, since the British constructed it, by drawing geometric lines on the map -- Winston Churchill and Lawrence of Arabia in the 1920s -- a country that had really always been held together by force and varying degrees repression. The King, King Faisal, is remembered, the King who was assassinated in 1958, as a kind of golden era, but even that is really, was not really a parliamentary democracy. It was still basically an autocratic state and I think we needed to understand better the forces that we were going to liberate. And my guess is that history will say that the forces that we liberated by invading Iraq were so powerful and so uncontrollable that virtually nothing the United States might have done, except to impose its own repressive state with half a million troops, which might have had to last ten years or more, nothing we could have done would have effectively prevented this disintegration that is now occurring.
--John Burns, The New York Times

In short, a good motive--to put an end to one of the world's worst tyrannies--ended up fueling an enterprise that quickly went astray. We were just too naïve about human nature in general and how bad things were in Iraq in particular.

In Burns's case, a far cry from the War for Oil we hear about.

February 5, 2007

If You Really Want Something to Worry About

L'il ole country lawyer John Edwards may be against the war in Iraq, which he voted for, presumably deceived by the endlessly crafty George Bush, but he's not above dangling the prospect of an attack on Iran before an audience of contributors thought to be motivated by pro-Israel sentiment.

Much better, of course, to fight in Iran, a country with an 3,000-year-old civilization, a larger population, and mountainous terrain, instead of in Iraq, a small flat country created out of whole cloth by Gertrude Bell.

February 2, 2007

Just When I Started to Think There Might Be Something to This Global Warning Stuff

The UN came out and said it's real.

So it can't be.

Wait a minute. They could be right by accident.

Making Peace With Opera

Even though my dearest aunt is an opera singer, I used to be a bit of a reverse snob about opera, which seemed contrived and affected.

Twenty-odd years ago, though, I took a job that required a very long commute. I began to borrow books on tape (cassettes, then) from the library. A lot of Frederick Forsyth, I recall.

I also began to borrow operas, starting with The Marriage of Figaro. Mozart, of course, is highly esteemed, but still underrated.

In addition to being a staunch Roman Catholic and a fine writer, The Anchoress is an opera fan, especially for a Welsh signer named Bryn Terfel. She has also linked to scenes from the Paris Opéra production of Cosí Fan Tutte, also by Mozart. Beautiful stuff. Here's one of the early trios:

In this scene, the two young men bet against the old bull's cynical claim that "they all do it" (the title of the opera)--there are no faithful women. The plot's a bit contrived by our standards, but the music is to die for.

This could have something to do with my youngest's singing teacher saying she could be a coloratura soprano. But maybe not.

Life is short. Listen.

February 1, 2007

He Might As Well Be Sporting a Turban

In his book, Golden, Harry, Only in America (Perma Books, 1959), the author noted with none too little jocularity that when a black newsperson from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, toured the south in the 1940s wearing a turban he was welcomed with open arms in the most exclusive hotels.
As I recall, he suggested buying turbans for Southern blacks to break down segregation.

Now the Gray Lady suggests that poor Barack Obama is getting a negative reception from some American blacks because he isn't descended from slaves and therefore isn't one of them, or at least doesn't share their experiences.

That, of course, is precisely why Obama appeals to whites, as Hapless Joe Biden awkwardly said. Like Colin Powell, he "ain't that black." Setting aside the post-9/11 connotations of the headgear, Obama is the 21st-Century equivalent of Harry Golden's turbaned reporter.

The first Irish Catholic President was the Harvardized Jack Kennedy. The first black President probably won't be Obama, but five'll getcha ten he won't talk black, won't be a racial rabble-rouser, and will dress in the best white-bread style. And he very well might have immigrant ancestry, from Africa or the West Indies.