Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Politics of Churlishness Marty Peretz on all that has been accomplished in the Middle East over the past two years. Unlike most on the left he believes in giving credit where credit is due: to Bush.

History has never traveled in the Middle East as fast as it has during the last two years. In this place where time seems to have stopped, time has suddenly accelerated. It may be true (more likely, it is not) that a deep yearning for democracy has been latent throughout the region for a long time. There certainly was a basis in reality for skepticism about the Arabs' hospitability to the opening of their societies. Whatever the proper historical and cultural analysis of the past, however, the fact is that democracy did not begin even to breathe until the small coalition of Western nations led by the United States destroyed the most ruthless dictatorship in the area.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Ward Churchill at a Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair This is priceless material, and with photos too! Particularly the guy with the inflated scrotum. When did San Francisco leave the planet?

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Lifers on the Loose: The appalling rhetoric in the Schiavo case Cathy Young in Reason with an excellent piece on this mess. The longer it continues the more I find myself on the husband's side. The "save Terri" side has gone so far overboard with its rhetoric that it is really doing damage to its cause. Nancy Cruzan was in the same situation ten years ago and I don't recall anything like this happening.

I'm not one to see a theocratic threat hiding under every bed. But here, the issue is whether life-and-death decisions are to be made by individuals within the law, or by the state on the basis on some people's understanding of what God wants. And I stress some people's: The majority of religious Americans support the removal of Schiavo's feeding tube, and even evangelicals are evenly divided.

Is there hypocrisy on both sides? Sure. Some on the left might well be championing Schiavo's survival as a disability rights or women's rights cause if it weren't being championed by right-to-life conservatives. The liberals who lambaste Republicans for trampling states' rights like federalism only when it suits them. But two wrongs don't make a right; and what the right is doing in the Schiavo's case is indeed a great wrong.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Hushed rape of Timor There is something so sexually depraved about Arab culture that I don't know if anything can be done about it. The things this article describes are apparently not that uncommon wherever Arabs are placed in positions of authority. More UN peacekeepers are charged with sexual abuse and the UN tries to cover it up. In this case it's in East Timor.

It caused outrage among East Timorese and Australian troops sent to protect them, raised tensions among UN peacekeepers to a deadly new level and caused senior UN staff to resign in disgust.

The deployment of Jordanian peacekeepers to East Timor was probably one of the most contentious UN decisions to follow the bloody independence ballot. It was eclipsed only by the cover-up and inaction that followed when the world body learned of their involvement in a series of horrific sex crimes involving children living in the war-battered Oecussi enclave.

Children were not the only victims - in early 2001, two Jordanians were evacuated home with injured penises after attempting sexual intercourse with goats.

The UN mission in East Timor led by Sergio Vieira de Mello (who was later killed in Baghdad) did its best to keep the matter hushed up. The UN military command at the time was only too happy to oblige.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Peggy Noonan addresses the Terri Schiavo case and the seeming enthusiasum by some people for pulling the tube.

This is a story with no happy ending, no matter who "wins" (which the pull-the-tube side seems to have done). I wouldn't want to live my life in a nursing home bed. But if she isn't even conscious anymore could she even be miserable about her condition? And if it's acceptable to starve and dehydrate someone like her, then who's next? If Society, the State, or whatever you want to call us, can declare another's life not worth living (for no other reason than it appears pointless) and take it away, then where do we go from here? Do we start clearing out nursing homes and hospitals? Sure would save us a lot of money. I'm reminded of the bumper sticker "Be kind to your children, someday they'll choose your nursing home." Maybe they won't have to if we continue down this path.

And those who are still learning--our children--oh, what terrible lessons they're learning. What terrible stories are shaping them. They're witnessing the Schiavo drama on television and hearing it on radio. They are seeing a society--their society, their people--on the verge of famously accepting, even embracing, the idea that a damaged life is a throwaway life.

Our children have been reared in the age of abortion, and are coming of age in a time when seemingly respectable people are enthusiastic for euthanasia. It cannot be good for our children, and the world they will make, that they are given this new lesson that human life is not precious, not touched by the divine, not of infinite value.

Once you "know" that--that human life is not so special after all--then everything is possible, and none of it is good. When a society comes to believe that human life is not inherently worth living, it is a slippery slope to the gas chamber. You wind up on a low road that twists past Columbine and leads toward Auschwitz. Today that road runs through Pinellas Park, Fla.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The TWA 800 crash won't go away. Like most people I had bought the official explanation and thought that reports of a missile shootdown were black helicopter style conspiracy mongering. Maybe not, and this reason for the "nothing to see here" explanation makes a lot of sense:

In the summer of 1996, President Clinton held a large double-digit lead in the polls over his Republican opponent Bob Dole. The country's economy was improving, the deficit was falling, the nation was at peace. If things continued on an even keel, Clinton was a certain winner in the November election. If, on the other hand, Arab terrorists had shot down an American jetliner from waters off our shore, there would have been strong public pressure for a tough response. Targeting whoever was responsible would involve military action, and a risk of casualties, and things going wrong overseas. Consider the precedent Clinton surely remembered: the badly botched rescue attempt of the Iranian hostages in the 4th year of the Carter administration, the last prior Democratic Party President, who was then beaten in his re-election race.

The Clinton administration was, in all respects other than the personal, a very cautious Presidency. Dick Morris did polling to select the President's vacation destination in 1996. Jackson Hole, Wyoming won out over Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. Being seen hiking though the mountains and roughing it, was a safer way to win over white male votes than launching attacks on Afghanistan.

Clinton never wanted to take action on anything as messy as what we're doing now, which is why he ignored the Africa embassy bombings, the Khobar Towers bombings and the USS Cole attack. This fits that pattern.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Victor Davis Hanson on the comparisons of Bush to Hitler. When I hear someone make that analogy that immediately tells me that the person making it is too stupid to be taken seriously. They obviously have so little knowledge of history that anything they say can be disregarded.

Is there a danger to all this? Plenty. The slander not only brings a president down to the level of an evil murderer, but — as worried Jewish leaders have pointed out — elevates the architect of genocide to the level of an American president. Do the ghosts of six million that were incinerated — or, for that matter, the tens of millions who were killed to promote or stop Hitler’s madness — count for so little that they can be so promiscuously induced when one wishes to object to stopping the filibuster of senatorial nominations or to ignore the objection of Europeans in removing the fascistic Saddam Hussein?

There is something profoundly immoral for a latte-sipping, upscale Westerner of the postmodern age flippantly evoking Hitler when we think of the countless souls lost to the historical record who were systematically starved and gassed in the factories of death of the Third Reich.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

This is the definition of chutzpah The president of Mexico, as close to a toilet as a piece of geography can be has this to say about our efforts to keep his citizens from invading our country:

"No country that is proud of itself should build walls ... it doesn't make any sense," Fox told a Mexico City news conference. "We are convinced that walls don't work."

He said it was impossible for Mexico to post military or police patrols along the entire border to prevent crossings.

"We can't keep them against their will by force," he said.

OK then, we will.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

This Was Not Looting - How did Saddam's best weapons plants get plundered? Chris Hitchens here on how lots of Iraq's WMD materials were removed from the country, you know, the WMD materials that never existed.

It was eye-rubbing to read of the scale of this potential new nightmare. There in cold print was the Al Hatteen "munitions production plant that international inspectors called a complete potential nuclear weapons laboratory." And what of the Al Adwan facility, which "produced equipment used for uranium enrichment, necessary to make some kinds of nuclear weapons"? The overall pattern of the plundered sites was summarized thus, by reporters James Glanz and William J. Broad:

The kinds of machinery at the various sites included equipment that could be used to make missile parts, chemical weapons or centrifuges essential for enriching uranium for atom bombs.

My first question is this: How can it be that, on every page of every other edition for months now, the New York Times has been stating categorically that Iraq harbored no weapons of mass destruction? And there can hardly be a comedy-club third-rater or activist in the entire country who hasn't stated with sarcastic certainty that the whole WMD fuss was a way of lying the American people into war. So now what? Maybe we should have taken Saddam's propaganda seriously, when his newspaper proudly described Iraq's physicists as "our nuclear mujahideen."

Monday, March 14, 2005

These Irish eyes are smiling at White House snub of IRA It's sad, but the IRA has shown that a leopard can't change its spots. It's long past the time that Irish-Americans changed their attitude about the IRA. It isn't fighting for freedom anymore. It's just fighting.

There's a lesson there in the reformability of terrorists. The IRA's first instinct is to kill. If you complain about the killing, they offer to kill the killers. If you complain about the manner of the killing, they offer to kill more tastefully -- "compassionate terrorism,'' as it were. But it's like Monty Python's spam sketch: There's no menu item that doesn't involve killing. You can get it in any color as long as it's blood-red.

For the last 3-1/2 years one of the most persistent streams of correspondence I've had is from British readers sneering, ''Oh-ho. So America's now waging a war on 'terror,' is she? Well, where were the bloody Yanks the last 30 years? Passing round the collection box for IRA donations in the bars of Boston and New York, that's where.''

They have a point. Blowing up grannies and schoolkids at bus stops is always wrong, and the misty shamrock-hued sentimentalization of it in this particular manifestation speaks poorly for America, the principal source for decades of IRA funding. On the other hand, it was the London and Dublin governments, not Washington, that decided they were going to accommodate the IRA, Her Majesty's government going so far at one point as to install Gerry Adams and his colleagues in the coalition administration of Northern Ireland, making IRA terrorists ministers of a crown they don't even deign to recognize.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Court rejects murder confession If I hadn't read it I never would have believed it.

A MAN who confessed to killing two women walked free from court yesterday when a judge ruled the evidence too damning.
Father-of-two Lyle Simpson admitted being a killer, DNA evidence proved he was at the scene of one murder and he tried to commit suicide a day later.

Yet after three days of legal argument in the NSW Supreme Court, Judge Anthony Whealy ruled some evidence was just too damning and ran the risk of "unfair prejudice" to the accused.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Victor Davis Hanson on the need to balance the bad news coming out of the Middle East with all the good that has occurred. Taking action is often messy, but compared to doing nothing is frequently the preferrable option.

Every time the United States the last quarter century had acted boldly — its removal of Noriega and aid for the Contras, instantaneous support for a reunified Germany, extension of NATO, preference for Yeltsin instead of Gorbachev, Gulf War I, bombing of Milosevic, support for Sharon's fence, withdrawal from Gaza and decapitation of the Hamas killer elite, taking out the Taliban and Saddam-good things have ensued. In contrast, on every occasion that we have temporized — abject withdrawal from Lebanon, appeasement of Arafat at Oslo, a decade of inaction in the Balkans, paralysis in Rwanda, sloth in the face of terrorist attacks, not going to Baghdad in 1991 — corpses pile up and the United States became either less secure or less respected or both.

So it is also in this present war, in which our unheralded successes far outweigh our notorious mistakes. A number of books right now in galleys are going to look very, very silly, as they forecast American defeat, a failed Middle East, and the wages of not listening to their far smarter recommendations of using the U.N. more, listening to Europe, or bringing back the Clinton A-Team.

America's daring, not its support for the familiar — but ultimately unstable and corrupt — status quo, explains why less than three years after September 11, the Middle East is a world away from where it was on the first day of the war. And that is a very good thing indeed.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Spengler, a writer in the Asia Times here on the chances for peace with Islam. Suffice it to say, he isn't optimistic.

One can destroy collective identity by main force, as US occupiers did in the former Axis countries, or batter it down by external pressure, as in the case of the Cold War. Whether the adversary society resists to the end, as in the case of Germany, or gives up without a shot, as in the case of the Soviet Union, is a matter of happenstance. In either case the result has been to push these societies down the road to extinction.

The United States has sufficient power to persuade Iraq's religious and tribal leaders to march their people to the polls as a condition for sharing power in a new government (The dotage of Iraq's democracy, February 2), or for that matter to extort a gesture toward multi-party elections out of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. But I do not believe that the Islamic world will abandon its long-developed sense of collective identity in favor of US-style democracy without tragic consequences.

Friday, March 04, 2005

An inglorious suicide Jeff Jacoby here on Hunter Thompson. He went out the way he lived- in utter depravity.

‘‘Hunter S. Thompson died Sunday as he planned,’’ begins Jeff Kass’s admiring Feb. 24 account in the Rocky Mountain News, ‘‘surrounded by his family, at a high point in his life, and with a single, courageous, and fatal gunshot wound to the head, his son says.’’

High point? Courageous? In what warped moral universe is a man’s pointless and ignoble death the ‘‘high point in his life?’’ And what is ‘‘courageous’’ about turning one’s wife into a widow or depriving a 6-year-old of his grandfather?

Thompson’s son and daughter-in-law, Kass continues, ‘‘could not be prouder’’ of his suicide. It was the result of ‘‘a thought process with its own beautifully dark logic. ... The guy was a warrior, and he went out like a warrior.’’ Did Thompson, asks Kass, ‘‘have his favorite liquid sidekick, a glass of Chivas Regal, on the counter? ‘Of course he did,’ Juan Thompson said.’’

What have the Americans done for us lately? A great piece here from the London Times about the anti-Americans and their reaction to events in the Middle East.

ONE OF MY favourite cinematic moments is the scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian when Reg, aka John Cleese, the leader of the People’s Front of Judea, is trying to whip up anti-Roman sentiment among his team of slightly hesitant commandos.
“What have the Romans ever done for us?” he asks.

“Well, there’s the aqueduct,” somebody says, thoughtfully. “The sanitation,” says another. “Public order,” offers a third. Reg reluctantly acknowledges that there may have been a couple of benefits. But then steadily, and with increasing enthusiasm, his men reel off a litany of the good things the Romans have wrought with their occupation of the Holy Land.

By the time they’re finished they’re not so sure about the whole insurgency idea after all and an exasperated Reg tries to rally them: “All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”

I can’t help but think of that scene as I watch the contortions of the anti-American hordes in Britain, Europe and even in the US itself in response to the remarkable events that are unfolding in the real Middle East today.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Mark Steyn has a way of cutting to the chase that is simultaneously eloquent and funny.

As for me, I got a lot of things wrong these last three years, but, looking at events in the Middle East this last week, I’m glad that, unlike the Nionist [Not In Our Name-ist] Entity, I got the big stuff right. On 8 May 2003, a couple of weeks after the fall of Saddam, I wrote in the Speccie’s then sister paper the Jerusalem Post:

‘You don’t invade Iraq in order to invade everywhere else, you invade Iraq so you don’t have to invade everywhere else.’

And so it’s turned out.

Some of the reasons for starting the remaking of the Middle East in Iraq were obvious within a day or two of 11 September. As I said back then, by his sheer survival, Saddam Hussein had become a symbol of America’s lack of will. As long as he was around, the message to Gaddafi, Arafat, Assad, Mubarak, the House of Saud and the rest of the gang was that we were still in a 10 September world. But the other reasons for starting in Iraq weren’t all so clear. After the liberation, the doom-mongers dusted down the old Bumper Boys’ Book of the British Empire and rattled off a zillion pseudo-authoritative backgrounders beginning, ‘Iraq was a new country cobbled together from several former Ottoman provinces, its lines drawn by the Europeans.’ That was Mark Mazower in the Independent. You get the cut of his jib: phony state, the slapdash creation of the Colonial Office, you can never make it work.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

An incredible article in the WSJ about how screwed up the CIA has become over the years, from Aldrich Ames to "Anonymous." As you might imagine, things were already bad, then got worse in the 90s just as they needed to be at the top of their game.

The Clinton administration greatly accelerated this process, not only by sharply cutting the CIA's budget but also by reining in almost all risk-taking operations and browbeating the agency into becoming a showcase for the Clintonian brand of affirmative action. And showcase is the right word: if the CIA typically shrouds itself in secrecy, when it comes to racial and gender preferences, few government agencies have made their internal workings quite so visible. The drive to hire more "Asian Pacific" and Hispanic officers at the very moment the CIA was facing a critical shortage of Arabic speakers, and at the very moment when Islamic terrorism was emerging as the most significant threat to our national security, speaks volumes about how and why the agency failed in its mission of safeguarding the United States.

Just as there is no single cause of the CIA's manifold shortcomings, however, so there is no single solution that can put things right. The United States is today once again at war, and contrary to the CIA's leading expert on Osama bin Laden, we are facing not a "gentle" adversary but one that has already demonstrated its capacity to murder large numbers of us. In this war, intelligence is the most important front--which means that fixing the CIA or, if it cannot be fixed, replacing it with something different and better, remains the government's most pressing task. Unfortunately, grafting a new layer of bureaucracy on top of what exists, as Congress has just done, does not even begin to grapple with the real weaknesses of the present system.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Michigan Review offers this list of courses to avoid at U of M. Hard to believe that nonsense like this is offered at what is considered one of the nation's finest universities.


Cult Archaeology

You already knew that people who believe that UFOs build the pyramids are nutjobs, but did you know that they are racist nutjobs? Maybe it’s just me, but people who can’t tell a pie tin on a string from a form of interplanetary transport don’t really have the mental acumen to develop a ridiculous theory for the exclusive purpose of making racist implications about the construction abilities of aboriginal peoples?

ANTHRCUL 444. Medical Anthropology.

“The concepts of ‘health’ and ‘illness’ are culturally constructed.”

I guess that I’m sneezing because the man is keeping me down. Medical school admissions should make having this on your transcript as big of a red flag as a morphine addiction and a history of kleptomania.