May 29, 2007

Women's Liberation, Iraq War Style

By day the road that leads from Damascus to the historic convent at Saidnaya is often choked with Christian and Muslim pilgrims hoping for one of the miracles attributed to a portrait of the Virgin Mary at the convent. But as any Damascene taxi driver can tell you, the Maraba section of this fabled pilgrim road is fast becoming better known for its brisk trade in Iraqi prostitutes.

Many of these women and girls, including some barely in their teens, are recent refugees. Some are tricked or forced into prostitution, but most say they have no other means of supporting their families. As a group they represent one of the most visible symptoms of an Iraqi refugee crisis that has exploded in Syria in recent months.

--The New York Times
This sort of vice is usually one of the effects of war. But it's ironic that we have invaded Iraq, which under its secular dictator had allowed relative freedom to at least the women of the élite, fostering a civil war that has driven out that élite, and now in some cases forced their daughters into prostitution.

Nostra culpa, nostra maxima culpa. I say this as a supporter, albeit somewhat skeptical, of the war at its outset.

I have long predicted a stream of Iraqi refugees to our shores, which our government hasn't allowed yet to any extent. And of course, having demonized the not very appetizing Baby Assad, we're not about to spend money in his country.

Why don't I hear the clamor--come liberate us, and turn our daughters into whores!

An Immigration Thought Experiment

Folks have argued immigration reform to a mind-numbing fare-the-well, changing few minds, I suspect, but here’s a thought experiment:

If you transport drugs in your car or cook them in your house, the Gummint will confiscate your wheels or your digs. Suppose they confiscated and auctioned off businesses that make a practice of hiring illegal immigrants?

I suspect legal scholars would promptly discover that civil confiscation violates due process, the number of businesses hiring illegals would decline rapidly, and the clandestine economy would grow . . . Whether border-crossing would decline, ¿Quién sabe?

Like I say, just a thought experiment, like Schrödinger’s cat.

May 28, 2007

Dumb Like Rocks or Sly Like Foxes?

I got into an exchange in Larison's comboxes. Daniel finds alarming the apparent ignorance of the front-runners in the GOP about, say, the difference between a Sufi and a Shi'ite. Given the Max Headroom programming of C-of-C favorite Mitt Romney, it appalled me that he could say some of the stuff he has, like this from the Boston Globe:
“They want to bring down the West, particularly us,” Romney declared. “And they’ve come together as Shia and Sunni and Hezbollah and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda, with that intent.”
Another commenter, johnsavage, opined that the GOP candidates aren't lithopoids, but clever little weasels, feigning ignorance for the rubes:
Well, certainly they do know the difference. However, the GOP self-consciously views itself as the “stupid party”. It prizes leaders who share their resentment of those eggheads at left-wing universities, together with the Europeans who are similarly opposed to American unilateralism. Karl Rove, who is obviously no fool, allows Bush to continue speaking of “nucular” weapons ad infinitum, among other obvious and less obvious errors. Obviously this is a well-planned tactical move in which Bush shows his solidarity with the less-educated. Only an elitist (it is believed) would dare call attention to the President’s lack of command of the English language. Smart Republicans can see Bush’s bluff, but they actually vote Republican based on real policies, rather than gestures that supposedly show where a candidate stands in the Culture War.
It pains an intellectual snob such as I, but johnsavage might be right.

The candidate's mental process would go like this:

“The country is in grave danger, but if the rubes thought I actually could tell one sand n*****r from another, they’d think I was a pointy-headed intellectual, so I’ll play dumb.”

So johnsavage thinks these guys are acting dumb, like a bunch of teenage girls who are afraid if they get A’s they won’t get dates, or black students who talk Ebonics and fail math so they won’t be seen as “acting white.”

He may have a point when it comes to W. I went to Andover a few years before W, and I can’t remember a soul there who said “nucular” or “athaletic” or “sheeit fahr.” Ruthless adolescent mockery wouid have eliminated such locutions in short order. What’s more, you had to read and at a minimum, regurgitate, even to get C’s. Years of substance abuse and sinecures could have rotted his brain, I suppose, or W could be chopping weeds and saying “nucular” to appease the rubes.

It’s a little harder to believe, though, that all the rest of the pack went to the same clown school as W. You’d think one or two would try flashing a little intellectual ankle just to stand out from the crowd.

Bacevich's Prescriptions

I had never heard of Professor Andrew Bacevich until the sad news came that the son of this war opponent lost his life in combat in Iraq. It should be no consolation at all that a draft-deferred old blogger came to know of the father because he learned of the son's death.

Be that as it may, I've just read Bacevich père's latest, The New American Militarism. Bacevich tries to account for the place the military has acquired in American life post-Vietnam, and finds much that alarms him. What's significant is that Bacevich himself is a West Pointer and a Vietnam vet, and rarely is seduced by the enthusiasms of the Europhilic, oikophobic élites.

For all that an academic style occasionally obtrudes, the book is an interesting read. Unlike many such critiques, the book ends with a set of rather specific prescriptions. These are worth summarizing, and I trust will be regarded as fair use.
  1. Heed the intentions of the Founders. By this notion Bacevich suggests we return to the Constitution's preamble, in which the union is intended, among other things, "to provide for the common defense," but not for remaking the world in our image, or in the name of some imagined ideal.
  2. Revitalize the separation of powers. In a word, this means giving the Congress a backbone transplant when it comes to foreign adventures.
  3. View force as a last resort. Bacevich would renounce the notion of preventive war. He would use force to act in genuine self defense, to retaliate for acts of aggression, and in concert with other nations to prevent things like genocide.
  4. Enhance U.S. strategic self-sufficiency. Bacevich views true autarchy as impossible or too costly to achieve, but a greater degree of energy independence is possible and desirable.
  5. Organize U.S. forces explicitly for national defense. This notion is the negative conclusion one would draw from Madeline Albright's query as to what good all this military strength does if we don't use it. A military organized to defend trade routes, our borders and shores, would be less likely to be misused abroad, because it would be less usable in imperial ventures. This notion also means closing garrisons abroad and restricting obligations to others who could defend themselves, South Korea being an example. Bacevich (unlike me) doesn't necessarily want to jettison NATO, but he suggests a European commander.
  6. Devise a gauge for a level of defense spending. Bacevich points out that if we spend as much as the next ten nations combined, the reduction would be substantial.
  7. Enhance alternative instruments of statecraft. In short, reform and improve our diplomatic capability.
  8. Revive the citizen-soldier. Bacevich recognizes that the draft is a non-starter, but suggests that excessive professionalization and separation of the officer corps from the society, especially the upper classes. He suggests that "citizens who defend the country should get a free college education; those who choose not to do so ought to pay their own way."
  9. Enhance the role of the National Guard and the reserve. This notion is something different from the current reality of nearly constant deployment overseas to a force that is organized to respond to threats to the homeland, whether military or natural disasters.
  10. Reconcile the American military profession to American society. Bacevich points to the service academies and the war colleges as emphasizing distinctions between "us" and "them," and suggests all officers should obtain degrees at civilian universities and then go to a service academy for a a year or two; and all career officers should do graduate work at civilian universities.
There's much to chew on, here. Those who are skeptical of the ideology and spirit of our universities might dwell comment on the leftward bias of our universities as an obstacle to the reform Bacevich proposes:
Indeed, participation of the Left in rejuvenating higher education on matters related to national defense is crucial. Few things are more important to promoting a critical appreciation of the dilemmas facing the United States as a military superpower than to induce the Left to recognize that, like it or not, war remains part of the human condition and central to the human experience and hence eminently worthy of study.
The importance of this work, beyond its specific analyses and prescriptions, is that it is an example of an approach to matters military that is patriotic, realistic about the place of force in human experience, and yet neither jingoistic nor expansionist.

My condolences to Prof. Bacevich and my congratulations on his intellectual effort.

May 22, 2007

Stranger Than Fiction

Pokemon, or "pocket monsters" were an imaginary galaxy of creatures popular a few years ago among the elementary school set.

The one section of the Gray Lady that I like, the Science Times, published images of undersea creatures today. Who woulda thunk that some of them look like (you guessed it) Pokemon.

There is an uncanny resemblance between the image above and Pikachu, cutest of the pocket monsters.

Of course, never having plumbed depths below 11o feet (to look at conger eels), I could suggest that the undersea creatures are made up, too. But that would be paranoid.

Open Borders Dystopia

The teetering compromise immigration bill, insofar as anyone can digest and understand it, is a disaster. The idea that the Senate should vote on it without hearings, and in short order, is a travesty. The Administration's betrayal of its voting base, in favor of its corporate money base, is typical, but shameful.

Here's what we are buying:
  • The transnationals will have their hard-working, docile proles. Unions? Fuggedabadit.

  • The nouveaux riches John Edwardses will have their brown lawn jockeys, gardeners, busboys and valets.

  • The Dems will have their voting cattle.

  • The blacks will have more unemployment and are already losing their neighborhoods in a hail of bullets.

  • The white working class are seeing their jobs and communities disappear, their children are becoming strangers in their own scools, and ultimately will lose their country.
Welcome to Brazil North.

May 16, 2007

Don't Go Near the Water

From Pravda.

HT: TigerHawk, who has more pics.

They Wudn't No Good Ol' Days

See, here.

Rank Injustice

A Google search suggests that a robust little ditty my sainted father used to sing to me is nowhere to be found on the Web. Here goes:
The cats on the Isle of Man have no tails.
The cats on the Isle of Man have no tails,
While all the other cats in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales
All have tails, all have tails.

We call this rank injustice, injustice.
We call this rank injustice, and to right it is our plan.
Close the door, they're coming in the window.
Close the window, they're coming in the door.
Close the door, they're coming in the window.
My God! They're coming through the floor!
This ditty was invariably followed by another:
There was a wooden soldier who had a wooden leg.
He had a wooden goose that would lay a wooden egg.
He laid the wooden egg all over the wooden farm,
And another little drink wooden do us any harm.
Dear old Dad of blessed memory used also to sing us bowdlerized versions of such ditties as "The Bastard Kind of England" and "Barnacle [né Bollocky] Bill the Sailor."

We must be faithful to tradition.

A Deranged Dotard

Norman Podhoretz, sometime editor of Commentary, and father of the ineffable JPod, holds forth on how the exigencies of "World War IV" and the prospect of a dhimmified Europe (he calls it "Finlandized") mandate the bombing of Iran.

When Sarkozy starts castrating reindeer with his teeth, I will call Europe "Finlandized."

I've always found Norman annoying. He created a cottage industry pondering the world-historical significance of being chased by black kids in Brooklyn and elbowing his way into the seventh circle of New York Jewish literati, and then established a neocon franchise as a hard-liner. This approach made some sense until the demise of the Soviet Union, but Norman has declared World War IV and never looked back.

I don't think bombing Iran is even in the interest of Israel, which is a major preoccupation of Norman's; it is even less so in that of the United States. Yes, these are two different questions.

Intellectuals playing with guns: a dangerous game. Superannuated Zionist intellectuals playing with missiles: here dwells madness.

Our First Four-Legged President?

[Hillary] is considered the experienced candidate, although she has had few responsibilities in her life (and no accomplishments) other than to be the put-upon wife of Gov./President William Jefferson Blythe Clinton. But she now speaks easily of "our administration" when referring to the United States government from 1993-2000 (her husband's administration.) I wonder whether Socks the Cat and Buddy the Dog (whereever they are today, God bless them) also meow and bark about "our administration." But the media and the public accept that she is "experienced." I suppose she is, of a sort.

--Tony Blankley

Even if the poor fellow hadn't been run over, he'd need a court to hold that equal protection requires that we count his age in "dog years."

Charlie's available, depending on what the Press Secretary is eating.

May 15, 2007

Phrase of the Month

That was what “compassionate conservatism” seemed to be: a Third Way for Republicans; rhetorical distancing from actual conservative positions to show that he wasn’t really one of “them”; a sort of neoliberalism on the right. In practice, that is more or less what it was. It wasn’t anything really new, but presented a new face: it was moderate Republicanism that had a friend in Jesus.
--Daniel Larison. Emphasis added.

I called it a "phrase" because I don't know if it's an epigram, a bon mot, an aphorism, or all three.

The Rev. Wilson vs. Brother W

Larison compares Woodrow Wilson and W, and concludes that history will conclude that the former did more damage than the latter.

He's right. That's why they name graduate institutes after St. Woodrow.

American Honcho: The Cattle Call

Apparently there's another runway show for the candidates ("America's Next Top Politico") tonight. Hugh Hewitt suggests a question for the contestants:
Perhaps Brit Hume, Chris Wallace and Wendall Goller will use tonight's debate in Columbia, S.C. -- 9 PM EST, 6 PM Pacific-- to push the candidates, even the marginal ones, on what a nuclear Iran means for the world and whether or not they would accept such a development if it threatened to occur on their watch. One way to frame the question: "If President Bush announced that the U.S. with or without its allies had struck at Iranian targets in response to reliable intelligence that Iran was close to becoming a nuclear power, would you support the president's decision given past problems with our intelligence but recognizing the dangers in a nuclear Iran?"

A follow-up: "What would you expect the reaction of Iran to be to such strikes? How would you deal with it if president?"
Good question.

We could probably do just as well with three judges (say, Rush, Katie Couric, and Hitchens as the snide, Simonesque Pom) and a call-in vote as with the rapidly crashing primary system. Tonight: riffs on foreign policy. Next week: riff on your sex life. Two weeks from tonight: health care (Zzzzzzzz . . . )

An idea reminiscent of Buckley's remark that 435 people chosen at random from the phone book would do as well as our elected Congress.

May 14, 2007

A Brave Mother

This story will cause you to tear up. An important read.

HT: Rod Dreher.

A New Urban Jungle

This post shows that Detroit, having lost more than half its population in just a few short years, is now being taken over by forest (including trees on the roofs of derelict skyscrapers), and like the demilitarized zone in Korea, turning into something of a wildlife sancturary.

It was Bryan who orated about grass growing in the the streets of every city in America. Bryan predicted the cause as the destruction of our farms. In fact, race and the incompetence of our auto magnates appear to have been the major factors.

Another Example of Staggering Business Acumen

The Daimler folks bought Chrysler nine years ago for $ 36 billion.

They just sold it to Cerberus, the three-headed dog, aka "Fluffy" in the Harry Potter series, for a fifth of that, $ 7.4 billion, mostly capital to go into the company rather than compensation for Daimler's shareholders.

That's a loss of about $ 3 billion a year.

The same year, McClatchy Newpapers bought the Minneapolis Star-Tribune for $ 1.2 billion. They just sold it to a private investment group for $ 530 million. If you look at the percentages, McClatchy was not as dumb as Daimler.

I just want to know what business school these folks attended. No doubt one endowed by a buggy-whip manufacturer.

May 8, 2007

Kids! Build Your Own Suspension Bridge!

The Science Times, the only part of the Gray Lady that's worth a damn, reports that students at MIT are replicating the fiber suspension bridges that the Incas built over canyons as part of their immense road system.

They didn't have iron, steel, or wheels, but they sure could weave fibers.

These things exist in the Himalayas, too, but how far back in time they go, I don't know.

I love reading about them, but I'm not so keen on crossing one.

May 7, 2007

"Sometimes I feel like a peckerless bird . . ."

Dr. Bob has taken up (or on, perhaps; certainly not in) the science of duck phalloi, which are apparently long and spiraly. The other 97% of birds lack peckers, believe it or not, proving once again that life is indeed unfair.

Just ask Cock Robin.

May 3, 2007

The Manchurian Mormon

People such as Captain Ed are praising Mitt Romney's performance at tonight's debate. I thought he was terrible--a coiffed, suited automaton. Remove the four AAs and the man's head would flop down to his ankles. He seemed a programmed opportunist to me.

I think he's another John Connally or Phil Gramm. Corporate contributors love him, and the public just doesn't get it, and he'll end up going nowhere.

I agree with Ron Paul on many issues, but he came off as something of an old-fashioned crank. Giuliani, Tancredo and Hunter weren't bad stylistically. They were all bad on interventionism except for Paul. Tommy Thompson seemed inept. McCain was ok, but not great. The age thing is going to hurt.

It's early days. I must be a political junkie, or I would have ignored this.

May 1, 2007

Advantage, Israel

This blog is no particular fan of Israel, a country highly overrated by its supporters, if unfairly demonized by some of its detractors.

The present Israeli government is generally thought to be incompetent, and managed to bungle the mini-war it fought in Lebanon last summer.

One difference between Israel and its foes, however, is that at least among Israeli Jews, open debate and discussion is permitted and encouraged. Thus the errors in the war led to the appointment of a commission, which has had very unkind things to say about the leadership, including the Prime Minister.

It now appears that it is only a matter of time before the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister are replaced, as has the military commander. Perhaps it will be a case of throwing the rascals out and replacing them with new rascals, but the odds are some things will be learned, first about the war, and second, about the consequences of incompetence.

Hezobllah's leader, Nasrallah, miscalculated and a third of his irregulars were killed, his stocks of arms depleted, the neighborhoods and villages where his supporters lived, destroyed, and his territory occupied by foreigners, many of them infidels. If there has been a word of discussion, it hasn't reached the Western press or blogs. Much the same was true of Egypt's Nasser, who let the Arabs into their greatest defeat in 1967. He was acclaimed as a hero.

Victor Hanson has pointed to the relative openness of criticism as one characteristic of Western armies that gives them an advantage. Let us hope that there will be a frank discussion in this country about what went wrong with our misadventure in the Middle East--and not just a blame game against the neocons and "Chimphitler,"but a searching reappraisal of where our true interests lie and what we need both to do and to avoid to protect them.

I'm not holding my breath.