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Scraps Archive
N.B.: Scraps has been superseded as the result of changes in Stromata's format. Scrap-like commentary and innuendo are now found on the Home page.
7/23/03: John Derbyshire has asked readers for the kind of questions that interviewers ought to be asking Hillary Clinton instead of the standard "Why are you so brave, smart and goddess-like?" fluff. While he has received plenty of suggestions, all of them, I think, miss the point. Asking Her Airiness direct questions about the Rose Law Firm's billing records won't shake her. What is needed is a questioner who will encourage her to expatiate on the paranoid fantasies that appear to dominate her mind. The "vast right wing conspiracy" should be fleshed out. She has, for instance, suggested that the VRWC was behind an alleged "dirty trick" played on Bill during his first political campaign, an unsuccessful race for Congress.  Let's invite her to explain which of her husband's qualities led the conspirators to target an obscure lawyer from rural Arkansas. Then, since there was "nothing to Whitewater", ask her, seriously, how she thinks that the evidence was fabricated against Jim Guy Tucker and his co-defendants. And does she have any theories about who stole the Rose records and then planted them in the White House living quarters? And did Richard Scaife Mellon have anything to do with Monica Lewinsky? For that matter, could the VRWC have taken a hand in silencing Vince Foster? Let Hillary tell us what she believes to be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and we may never have to listen to her again.
7/19/03: Bjørn Stærk transmits encouraging news about Denmark. His source, admittedly, thinks that everything is rotten in that realm.
7/14/03: No Bastille Day celebrations on this site. 'Tis remarkable how people who think that John Ashcroft has destroyed our liberties get all mushy about the regime of such libertarians as Danton and Robespierre. Anyway, here is a fine quote for the day from the Duke of Wellington:  "We always have been, we are, and I hope that we always shall be detested in France."
7/12/03: Today's milestone is the commissioning of the ninth Nimitz class aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan. What more needs to be said?
7/9/03: Viewed from a distance, Chicago looks like a cluster of tall buildings set in a vast forest. The Daily Telegraph reports the botanists have now determined that "Trees prefer cities to the countryside".
7/9/03: Multiculturalism wends its bizarre way. Bjørn Stærk reports that Norwegian populist politician Carl I. Hagen is being ripped by the establishment press for defending the rights of Moslem women. In an interview, Hagen made the obvious point that forced marriage, widely practiced by Norwegian Moslems, is not easily distinguishable from rape and criticized the government for its tolerance of the practice. The media and rival politicos were quickly abuzz about the Progress Party leader's lack of nuance and sensitivity. Truly astonishing was the reaction of Dagbladet, the country's leading daily, when Hagen was commended by a feminist leader. Harrumphed this local Times: "More curiously, Hagen receives support from Hege Storhaug [of the] Human Rights Service. She claims that girls who are forcibly married are usually raped, and is thankful for Hagen's statement in the debate. It's one thing that the Progress Party will use any opportunity to demonize people with a minority background. But that an organization which works against the oppression of women thus legitimizes Hagen's level of debate, is incomprehensible." To oppose rape is to oppress women? Oh, brave new world, indeed!
7/8/03: I haven't read Ann Coulter's new book Treason, but, after reading comments like this one from the usually sensible Right Wing News, I'm pleased to see Dorothy Rabinowitz's response to Miss Coulter's praise of Senator Joe McCarthy. A bonus is the perfect epithet for leggy Ann: "the Maureen Dowd of the conservatives".
6/30/03: Professor Volokh also notes the results of a fascinating poll, commissioned by a pro-abortion group, on women's positions on legal abortion. Only 30% favored the status quo ("Abortion should be generally available to those who want it"); 68% were for stricter limits on the practice. A majority said the abortion should never be legal or should be legal only in cases of rape, incest or danger to the mother's life. A reversal of the infanticide regime isn't around the corner, but this is yet another sign that  the present moral darkness will not last forever.
6/30/03: Eugene Volokh, law professor and leading blogger, has weighed in on Justice Thomas' alleged "ingratitude" toward racial preferences, making the same point that I make below (6/25). His phrasing is better, of course: "I wonder how far these critics would take their criticism. In the 1970s, the Supreme Court held that sex discrimination was unconstitutional. The justices who voted for this position had spent their lives in a nation in which women were largely excluded from the legal profession. Those men may well have benefited from this exclusion — when half the population is out of the competition, the competition is easier. Maybe if men hadn’t gotten preferences, some of those justices wouldn’t have made it onto the high court. Should Justices Brennan, Marshall, and the others have said 'Oh, we benefited from sex discrimination, so it would be ungrateful for us to now hold that sex discrimination is unconstitutional'? Or should they have resigned en masse, in shame at having gotten this benefit that they realized was improper? Should people have berated them for having gotten the advantage of preferences for males, and then denying future generations of men the same advantage ('pull[ing] up the ladder after [themselves]')?"
6/26/03: Dueling Quotations. Edward Said: "However else one blames Saddam Hussein as a vicious tyrant, which he was, he had provided the people of Iraq with the best infrastructure of services like water, electricity, health, and education of any Arab country."
John Derbyshire: "Wherever there is a jackboot stomping on a human face, there will be a well-heeled Western liberal to explain that the face does, after all, enjoy free health care and 100 percent literacy."
6/25/03: Will San Francisco petition to join the Euro zone? The Daily Telegraph reports that "Almost all euro bank notes have traces of cocaine, according to a study by German scientists."
6/25/03: Both Andrew Sullivan and James Taranto have eviscerated Maureen Dowd for the blatant racism that imbues her attack today on Justice Clarence Thomas. There is one other point that they don't emphasize. Miss Dowd's primary accusation against Thomas is that he is "ungrateful" for the advantages that he has supposedly received from racial preferences. Does she seriously contend that beneficiaries of an unjust system are morally bound to perpetuate it? By that logic, South African whites who didn't defend apartheid and white Americans who dismantled segregation (and, before that, slavery) were guilty of monumental ingratitude.  Maybe it's time for a Dowd column pouring venom on the Southern liberals of the 1950's or calling for the demonization of anti-apartheid campaigner Helen Suzman.
6/24/03: "The average poor person in America is richer than many entire villages in Africa or Asia, where they still have no phones, refrigerators, and very little food. Many on the left - particularly those still in a Marxist haze - reject the idea that poverty should be viewed in absolute terms. But when you think about it, they have to [reject it]. If we all agreed that many of the poorest people in America live with the material prosperity - cars, phones, air conditioning, the caloric intake of a Roman emperor - we associated with millionaires just a few generations ago, most of the liberal agenda would have to go out the window." - Jonah Goldberg
6/23/03: Though it will take a while to sort out the legal and practical ramifications of the Supreme Court's muddy pair of decisions on racial preferences in university admissions, the cases have made one fact clear: Preference proponents are as adamant in clinging to racist practices as any old-time segregationist. Most remarkable was Dick Gephardt's declaration that, if he were President, he would overturn any "wrong" decision by executive order! Justice Ginsburg rested her dissent from the case that preferences lost (Gratz v. Bollinger) in part on the assumption that university administrators will discriminate using "winks, nods and disguises" if they aren't allowed to continue to do so openly. Last Friday, The Wall Street Journal described some of the ways in which this process of evasion is already under weigh in jurisdictions that bar racial bias. Is Massive Resistance in the offing?
6/16/03: Tolkien fans will be eager, I'm sure, to read all about the new character slated for inclusion in the movie version of The Return of the King.
6/15/03: Returning home from a trip out west for a niece's high school graduation, I glimpsed a Chicago Tribune headline "State Not Catching Bush Wave", which turned out to be another effort by determined journalists to find a silver lining in what they doubtless regard as bad news. According to the poll reported beneath the headline, 57% of Illinois voters approve of the job that President Bush is doing, against 34% who disapprove. In a matchup with a generic Democrat, the President won 38% to 34%: not real impressive but not bad in a state where Al Gore beat him 54% to 42% - and even better when one takes into account the enfeebled condition of the Illinois Republican Party. If these numbers are bad news for the Bush camp, what would good news look like?6/10/03: The Guardian, very definitely not the place to go for pro-American apologetics, has honorably published an exposé of the Baghdad museum looting hoax. Reporter David Aaronovitch doesn't use that word, but a hoax is what it patently was. The Ba'athist museum director lied to a credulous press corps about the whereabouts of exhibits and how much damage they had suffered. The evidence now indicates that such thefts as took place were "inside jobs", pulled off by the museum staffers who then loudly blamed the Americans. What's more, the Saddamites used the museum as a fortress, quite unconcerned about the risks to its artifacts. Mr. Aaronovitch sums up: "Furious, I conclude two things from all this. The first is the credulousness of many western academics and others who cannot conceive that a plausible and intelligent fellow-professional might have been an apparatchik of a fascist regime and a propagandist for his own past. The second is that - these days - you cannot say anything too bad about the Yanks and not be believed."
6/10/03: One hesitates to ascribe rationality to Muammar Qaddafi, but Libya's tinpot despot has finally figured out who are not on the winning side. He has reportedly decided to resign from the Arab League and to drop "Arab" from his country's official name. From now on, he misrules the "African Republic of Libya".
6/6/03: Just for the record, while walking to work today, I for the first time saw a Segway in the wild, being ridden down the Dearborn Street sidewalk by a gentleman of about my age. Will I ever glimpse another, or is this sighting like teh Edsels of my childhood?
5/29/03: Fifties cascade today: The 550th anniversary of the Fall of Constantinople. Bob Hope's 100th birthday. The 50th anniversary of the first ascent of Mount Everest. Data for the numerologists to ponder.
5/28/03: The CIA has published an analysis of two Iraqi mobile biological labs, concluding that they were almost certainly designed to produce biological weapons. Iraqi sources had described these vehicles and their uses before the war. The accuracy of their accounts has now been confirmed. "Coalition experts on fermentation and systems engineering examined the trailer found in late April and have been unable to identify any legitimate industrial use - such as water purification, mobile medical laboratory, vaccine or pharmaceutical production - that would justify the effort and expense of a mobile production capability. We have investigated what other industrial processes may require such equipment - a fermentor, refrigeration, and a gas capture system - and agree with the experts that BW agent production is the only consistent, logical purpose for these vehicles."
5/26/03: Quote of the Day: "The irony is that, since September 11, most Americans and others caught up in terrorist attacks have shown admirable resilience and courage. Yet our official culture seems always to focus on our fear and vulnerability. It is a policy which one top Downing Street adviser last week characterised as 'organised paranoia', a risk-averse 'better safe than sorry' approach that is likely to leave us no more safe, but much more sorry. Who wants to live under a system of organised paranoia? And who needs al-Qaeda, when we seem perfectly capable of scaring ourselves to death?" - Mick Hume, The Times of London
5/26/03: One of history's strangest obscure facts is that Queen Victoria, whom we now remember as universally beloved, was the target of eight assassination attempts. Probably moved by whimsy, Mark Steyn has linked to an article that carefully recounts all of them. The author, Yvonne Demoskoff, has other interesting information about European royalty on her site.
5/25/03: Like everybody else, I don't always agree with Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit or even think that he always makes sense. But now and then he justifies his reputation as the Right's Number One Blogger, as with this concise description of one of the major defects of "affirmative action": "The bad thing about the Times' diversity culture, now well-documented by Kaus, Sullivan, et al., is that when you have things like the Bragg case it's hard to know whether they're justified or whether they represent some sort of politico-racial balancing. And that's the trouble with diversity culture in general: it makes everything, and everyone, suspect. Instead of minimizing racism, it makes every single decision racially charged. And by encouraging bogus charges of racism, it ultimately makes those charges meaningless: the first refuge of scoundrels rather than items of moral substance."
5/24/03: Evidence continues to accumulate against the delusions of Saddam Hussein's apologists. The Daily Telegraph has two new items: (i) "British military officers have uncovered an attempt by Saddam Hussein to build a missile capable of hitting targets throughout the Middle East, including Israel. . . . Its range of 600 miles would have been far greater than that of the al-Samoud rocket - which already breached the 93-mile limit imposed by the UN on any Iraqi missiles." (ii) Iraqi doctors, now free to speak out, assert that neglect by the Ba'athist regime, not U.N. sanctions, caused the sharp rise in infant mortality in Iraq since 1991. The government "lavished funds on military programmes and Saddam's palaces in the knowledge that it could blame sanctions for the lack of medicines and equipment in hospitals and clinics."
5/24/03: To those who scoff as the notion that there's any reason why libertines shouldn't be President, I commend a new article by Arnold Beichman, the Grand Old Man of the Cold War. In "The President as Priapist", he looks at the risks that John F. Kennedy's uncontrolled libido posed for the United States during a dangerous era. Though he avoided scandal and, so far as we know, blackmail, there is "disquieting evidence that Kennedy's womanizing troubled statesmen like British prime minister Harold Macmillan. This same behavior also may have caused some of his subordinates to doubt his competence and not only to defy his leadership, but to berate him for exercising it. . . . Macmillan felt that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty had been badly negotiated with Chairman Khrushchev by President Kennedy because he was 'weakened by constantly having all those girls, every day'."
5/21/03: Until yesterday, Canada was a major supplier of beef to U.S. kitchens and restaurants - a billion pounds a year. David Frum wonders aptly whether the USDA's abrupt (though possibly temporary) ban was caused by one mad cow or one crazy Premier. "This is a moment when Canadians must dearly wish they had a friend in the White House – and it may be a moment to wonder why Prime Minister Jean Chretien has worked so hard over the past 18 months to alienate and offend the current occupant." I doubt, though, that the President saw any alternative to allowing the Secretary of Agriculture to impose her blockade or would have acted differently had Canada sent its entire army to Iraq. The "precautionary principle" so dominates health policy that it is taken for granted that averting the most minuscule risks justifies massive economic disruptions. Iain Murray examines the dark side of hypercaution by looking at the consequences of "Mad-Cow Madness" in Great Britain. "As recently as November 2001, a leading researcher into the human toll of the disease estimated that somewhere near 100,000 people would die in Britain as a result of eating infected meat. The same researcher has just quietly released his latest estimates of the future death toll: the best estimate is 40 more deaths. . . . Britain therefore almost destroyed an industry, spent billions and crippled the reputation of science as an honest profession for the sake of precipitate action against a disease that killed a handful every year. The mad-cow crisis is a case study in how governments believing the worst as a matter of course and taking action before the full facts are ascertained can bring untold costs to a nation."
5/10/03: The House of Representatives yesterday passed a tax cut bill that will be routinely denounced as "extravagant" and "unaffordable", another step in the right-wing plot to cut the heart out of government. When reading such rhetorical flourishes, bear in mind that, under current law, the federal government will collect $25 trillion in taxes over the next ten years. President Bush proposed reducing that figure by $725 billion, or 3%. The House has trimmed the reduction to 2%. The Senate Finance Committee bill would make it 1.5%. The President's ideas are worthwhile because of their effects "at the margin", where they will spur investment, but it's ridiculous to pretend that they will induce anorexia in the federal leviathan.
5/9/03: Jim Miller has discovered that Paul Krugman did not abandon economics for conspiracy theorizing. No, Professor Krugman is himself the victim of a conspiracy to destroy his reputation. And a successful one, too. (For once, I'm ahead of the crowd: Instapundit hasn't linked to this story yet!)
5/8/03: Political Correctness falls on its face. To avoid giving offense to folks who don't realize that the Confederacy is not about to rise from the ashes and reinstitute slavery, the State of Georgia has adopted a new flag, one that avoids any resemblance to the oh-so-icky Confederate battle flag. The new banner looks like this:
And this is the national flag adopted by the first Confederate Congress in 1861, popularly known as the "Stars and Bars":
Thanks to the Midwest Conservative Journal for this datum.
5/8/03: In the brouhaha over the Presidential landing on the Abraham Lincoln, an important point seems to have gone unmentioned. One of the best fillips for servicemen's morale is to see their leaders doing the sort of things that the rank-and-file do. That is why so many Great Captains made a point of marching and fighting with their men. Nobody expects the President of the United States to pick up an M-16, but it was obvious from looking at the pictures from the Lincoln that the sailors were delighted to see their commander-in-chief tailhooking a jet. It was a publicity stunt, sure, but the kind of publicity stunt that builds fellow feeling between leaders and the led. The really big difference between Clinton's military and Bush's is that the former completely lacked that vital bond.
5/6/03: "ERROR 404 File Not Found" - the bane of Internet browsing. But it wouldn't be a bane if all such messages featured Baghdad Bob. (Shamelessly lifted from Little Green Footballs)
5/6/03: USA Today reports that the University of California at Berkeley, worried about SARS, will not let students from Red China, Taiwan, Hong Kong or Singapore enroll in its summer session. The university's fears may be overblown (vide John Fund, "WHO Cried Wolf"), but I doubt that it will be harshly criticized for placing public health above the private interests of those shut out by its policy. What an interesting contrast to a certain other acronymic plague. Would Berkeley ever consider restricting homosexuals in any way in order to slow the spread of AIDS? When dealing with that special interest disease, every individual's right to unlimited sexual gratification is far more important than measures to protect others against a cruel and lingering manner of death.
5/5/03: Not quite "man bites dog" but close enough: The Associated Press reports that Yale graduate assistants have voted against union representation. Organizers for the Graduate Employee and Students Union expected a sweeping endorsement and instead were rejected, 694-651. Left-wing arrogance seems to have been the downfall of union proponents: "Among academics, there is a lot more respect for differences of opinion," said art history student Claudia Brittenham. But with the graduate organizers, she said, "They feel if I have a different opinion, it's because I haven't been sufficiently educated."
4/29/03: April 29th is Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Much less seriously - and entirely by coincidence - it is also the 34th anniversary of the founding of the Tory Party at Yale University.
4/26/03: Documents discovered in Baghdad by The Daily Telegraph reveal links between the Saddam regime and al-Qaeda. "Papers found yesterday in the bombed headquarters of the Mukhabarat, Iraq's intelligence service, reveal that an al-Qa'eda envoy was invited clandestinely to Baghdad in March 1998. The documents show that the purpose of the meeting was to establish a relationship between Baghdad and al-Qa'eda based on their mutual hatred of America and Saudi Arabia. The meeting apparently went so well that it was extended by a week and ended with arrangements being discussed for bin Laden to visit Baghdad." So much for the assertion - if anybody still believes it - that Osama bin Laden hated the secular Ba'athists as much as he did the United States. It will be interesting to see what further evidence turns up concerning the development of the Osama-Saddam axis after the 1998 session.
4/21/03: Neil Gaiman casts his eye on the movement to rewrite history textbooks "to embrace the concept of European Union". Guess which of these passages is a Gaiman parody and which is taken from an actual book inflicted on British schoolboys: (i) "The Vikings were Danes who besides being farmers, were much better at trading than Saxons. The Danes and Saxons settled down together and Saxon England became one rich and peaceful kingdom." (ii) "People in England and Europe did not get real holidays back then, so the Crusades were started as a way of getting some sunshine and exercise and to help people meet their Islamic counterparts in places like Jerusalem, for multicultural dialogue and a change of air."
4/17/03: Dave Francis, an American in Russia, sent me a copy of one of his recent opinion pieces, "Eddie, Go Home", in which he draws on that American folk villain Eddie Haskell to illuminate our relationships with our so-called "allies". His Web site has plenty of other interesting material, and he also has a weekly radio show (Mondays, 10:00 p.m. CST) that those more technically adept than I can hear over the Internet.
4/16/03: Senator Peter Fitzgerald's (R-Ill.) decision not to run for reelection has been greeted favorably by most conservative observers, which seems to me a trifle unfair. Aside from being a lot further right of center than the next Senator from Illinois is likely to be, Mr. Fitzgerald deserves our gratitude for having defeated the loathsome and corrupt Carol Moseley Braun, friend to African tyrants, whom "big name" Illinois Republicans were unwilling to challenge, and our respect for having consistently opposed the corrupt and loathsome George Ryan, friend to murderers on death row, whom the GOP big names reflexively protected. The grave weakness of his reelection prospects stemmed partly from the damage that inept leadership has inflicted over the years on the state Republican Party and partly from his astonishing reticence about appearing in public. If there was ever a more reclusive, anti-social solon, I haven't heard of him. Here is a man who obviously really means it when he utters the cliché about wanting to "spend more time with his family". And that's a reason to think well of him, too.
4/13/03: President Bush's warning that Syria possesses chemical and biological weapons was not "news". The Defense Department was saying the same thing as long ago as 1992. Sobering reading are two articles by Dany Shoham, a microbiologist at Bar-Ilan University: "Guile, Gas and Germs: Syria's Ultimate Weapons" and "Poisoned Missiles: Syria's Doomsday Deterrent".
4/12/03: For those who want to read a plethora of serious commentary on issues arising from the Iraqi campaign and its aftermath, Patrick Belton of Oxblog has been assembling a reading list drawn from a wide range of viewpoints. Topics covered so far include "Contemporary realist, neoconservative, and multilateralist perspectives on U.S. grand strategy", "U.S.-European relations, and what counts as winning for U.S. policy", " Democracy promotion, and lessons to be learned from the U.S. record", "Current debates within the intelligence community" and " Planning a strategy for Iraqi reconstruction and transition to democracy".
4/12/03: Headline of the month: "Anti-War Groups Fear Loss of Momentum".
4/10/03: Norwegian blogger Bjørn Stærk has encapsulated why, watching scenes of the liberation of Baghdad, we should rejoice, rather than fear the difficulties that could lie ahead: "Then [I] laugh with relief, as I remember that none of the media's perpetual state of worriedness matters. . . .  Iraq has been given a second chance. That chance can be wasted, but it can't be revoked."
4/9/03: But enough of war. Let's look at something really grim: taxes. David Barry has the Internal Revenue Code figured out: "It's gigantic and insanely complex, and it gets worse all the time. Nobody has ever read the whole thing. IRS workers are afraid to go into the same ROOM with it. They keep it locked in the basement, and once a day, they open the door, heave in a live taxpayer - some poor slob who failed to adopt EGTRRA in time to comply with GUST (and various other amendments) - then slam the door shut, before the screams start."
4/9/03: For your gloating enjoyment, The Daily Telegraph collects predictions about the course of the Iraqi War, e. g., Robert Fisk's appreciation of the military balance one week ago: "Anyone who doubts that the Iraqi army is prepared to defend its capital should take the highway south of Baghdad. How, I kept asking myself, could the Americans batter their way through these defences? The Americans may say they are 'degrading' the country's defences, but there was little sign of that here Wednesday." In a separate story, we learn that the hedgehogs in the Western Isles of Scotland are tougher to eradicate than Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard. More: Here's another cento of quotes from prophets who aspired to Cassandra's mantle but found that it didn't quite fit, compiled by Right Wing News.4/7/03: On a more serious note than the post below, today is the 200th anniversary of the death of Toussaint Louverture, one of the greatest leaders of irregulars in military history, who briefly freed his native Haiti from the slave system. He died in a French dungeon, after the Revolution reimposed slavery for the greater good of liberté, fraternité, égalité.
4/7/03: Gazing out my window at the layer of snow over Chicago, I am moved to propose that April 7th be hereafter celebrated as International Global Warming Day. Just by coincidence, The Daily Telegraph reports further evidence that the "Earth is hotter than ever, and we're all going to die!" school of thought is counterfactual. I'm not sure, though, that I agree completely with the professor who avers that the Middle Ages "was a wonderful period of plenty for everyone".
4/2/03: Noted with appreciation: the ten major companies that, according to ABC News, are most generous to employees called up for Reserve or National Guard duty during the war.
3/24/03: Watch, the invaluable site where Swedish anti-idiotarian journalist Marten Barck keeps track of news and opinion about the War on Terror, has changed its URL. If you update only one bookmark this month, this one should be it.
3/21/03: Now can we call them unpatriotic? Eleven members of Congress voted "no" on a resolution "expressing the support and appreciation of the nation for the president and the members of the armed forces who are participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom". The roll call: John Conyers (Mich.), Mike Honda (Calif.), Stephanie Tubbs Jones (Ohio), Barbara Lee (Calif.), Jim McDermott (Wash.), Bobby Scott (Va.), Fortney "Pete" Stark (Calif.), Edolphus Towns (N.Y.), Maxine Waters (Calif.), Charles Rangel (N.Y.), Diane Watson (Calif.).
3/18/03: Instapundit has blogged many clever sayings, but it'll be a while before he tops this: "Janet Reno says that you don't deal with a crazed, weapon-accumulating, charismatic leader by sending in tanks. Sorry – I'm suffering an irony overload right now." And then, for those who like their irony explicated, there is Scrappleface's "Recalling Waco, Reno Slams Bush for Stalling".
3/17/03: On this momentous day, let's not forget a significant anniversary. Forty-five years ago, the United States launched the Vanguard I satellite, which is now the oldest manmade object in outer space. "Vanguard met 100 percent of its scientific objectives, providing a wealth of information on the size and shape of the earth, air density, temperature ranges and micro-meteorite impact. It proved that the earth is pear-shaped, not round; corrected ideas about the atmosphere's density at high altitudes and improved the accuracy of world maps." Happy Birthday, Vanguard!
3/15/03: Those who are interested in the vagaries of Supreme Court Justices may want to take a look at my latest posting in Querulous Notes.
3/12/03: Now here is the kind of news that real imperialist hyperpowers yearn for: The Daily Telegraph reports that Chris Patten, the doltish antisemite who holds the title of EU Commissioner for External Affairs, "warns" that his organization won't help with the reconstruction of Iraq if Saddam Hussein is kicked out without the prior blessing of the United Nations. Excellent! The less influence people like Patten have in the Middle East, the better.
3/10/03: In an example of America's casual generosity, even in time of war, The New York Times reports that 12,000 Somali Bantu, whose ancestors were carried off to the Horn of Africa and enslaved, are being resettled in the United States. Instapundit points out, however, that the Times reporter can't get American racism out of his mind. To some liberals, being a slave to an Arab isn't much worse than being called "n----r" in the U.S.
3/6/03: I'll get around to my normal Hunt Watch dissection of Al Hunt's column in today's Wall Street Journal, but the sheer indecency of its opening sentence calls for immediate comment: "It's easy to see why Karl Rove is eager to keep war and terrorism front and center.", followed by gabble about the sluggish economy. Except for omitting a comparison to Hitler, this is the same line that Herta das Hassefrau peddled during the German election campaign. What keeps "war and terrorism front and center" is terrorists' blowing people up, but some liberals want to pretend that it's all an invention of George W. Bush's political team.
3/4/03: When the White House called for Senators to send additional questions to judicial nominee Miguel Estrada by last Friday and promised that he would answer all of them within four days, I knew exactly what would happen. Filibustering Dems would deluge him with detailed queries about every aspect of his views, then would deny that his responses were satisfactory. It seemed like a really stupid way to give the obstructionists a scintilla of support for their argument that they don't know enough about the nominee to be able to allow a vote. Well, Friday went by, and, as Byron York reports, not a single Senator sent in a single question. It looks like the Democrats are happy to make it obvious that their opposition to Mr. Estrada has not a whit to do with his qualifications. It is a pure power play, attempting, first, to intimidate other conservative Hispanics and, second, to force the White House to yield a share of its authority to appoint judges. There is a procedure for amending the Constitution. It involves obtaining the consent of three-quarters of the states, not bowing to the whim of 41 Senators. Let's hope that the White House remembers that appeasing irreconcilable foes is as bad an idea at home as abroad.
3/2/03: The Daily Telegraph has good news about the environment. A group of Swedish ecological crusaders, including the former head of the country's version of the EPA, has concluded that recycling is bunk. "In a reversal of decades-old wisdom, they argue that burning cardboard, plastics and food leftovers is better for the environment and the economy than recycling. They dismiss the time-consuming practice - urged on householders by the Government and 'green' councils - of separating rubbish for the refuse collectors as a waste of time and money."
2/20/03: When the noxious Daily Mirror, which regularly proclaims that George W. Bush is far worse than Saddam Hussein, announced that former President Jimmy Carter "backs our fight" against bringing freedom to Iraq, I expected to read a Carter denial within a day or two. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate would explain that he had been misquoted, hadn't understood the Mirror reporter's questions, had lusted after her in his heart, definitely did not mean to imply agreement with the tabloid's vicious anti-Americanism, etc. Two days have now passed. Plains, Georgia, is an out-of-the-way hamlet, but shouldn't we have heard the denial by now? Can Jay Nordlinger be correct when he says that the ex-President has turned into a denizen of "the hard Left"? A while ago, I suggested that Bill Clinton was deserving of impeachment post officium. If his last Democratic predecessor truly stands four square with the Stalinoid Mirror, we should make that process a double.
2/18/03: Let me add my commendations to Axis of Weasels, a new Web site devoted to exposing the folly of appeasement.
2/17/03: Do Iraqis who live in the U.S. agree with the "peace" marchers who want to leave Saddam Hussein in power indefinitely? ABC News reports: "'I think the United States is now on the right track to get rid of Saddam Hussein and help the Iraqi people to bring democracy,' said Jabir Algarawi, the director of the Arizona Refugee Community Center in Phoenix, and one of the 3,000 Iraqis who have settled in Phoenix since the Gulf War ended. . . . [For the refugees,] there is no debate about whether the United States should go to war with Iraq. According to one refugee named Diaa, who fled Iraq in 1994 and asked that his last name be withheld, the Iraqi dictator is a 'dangerous person' who has chemical and biological weapons. The U.S. government should not 'leave him alone this time,' Diaa added, especially since the Iraqi people are waiting for the opportunity to fight alongside American troops. . . . Algarawi says despite the risks that would be involved in a war between America and Iraq, even those now living in Iraq are willing to support an attack against the current regime if it results in a democratic Iraq." The "anti-war  movement" should be frank about its de facto slogan: "No Blood for Democracy".
2/16/03: Words I wish I'd thought to say. Tony Blair in the British "peace" marchers: "If there are 500,000 on that march, that is still less than the number of people whose deaths Saddam has been responsible for. If there are one million, that is still less than the number of people who died in the wars he started."
2/16/03: This weekend's rallies in behalf of Saddam Hussein are, I gather, bigger than any ever staged against American intervention in Vietnam. Recalling those long ago protests, I am struck by one conspicuous difference. The anti-Vietnam crowd believed, or believed that they believed, that rule by Ho Chi Minh would be good for the South Vietnamese people. No one professes to think that Saddam Hussein is anything other than a blood-soaked despot. So why the passionate defense of his continuation in power? Even if invading Iraq were, in some abstract sense, a misuse of American power, it would unquestionably be a misuse that will benefit that unhappy country and thus a cause for quiet tut-tutting rather than rabid opposition. Does the Left hate America so bitterly that any enemy of George W. Bush is its friend? And, if so, does that reflect so badly on Mr. Bush?
2/13/03: Columnist Ruben Navarette, Jr. sums up why Senate Democrats are so fiercely against the nomination of Miguel Estrada, an Honduran immigrant who is widely regarded as one of the country's top lawyers, to a federal judgeship: "The truth is that Democrats want to make an example of Miguel Estrada, whose appointment to the bench could make Hispanic voters look more favorably on the Bush administration. They also want to send a message to the White House that when it comes to confirming federal judges, there are some things they simply will not tolerate. Apparently at the top of the list: Independent-minded Hispanic hotshots who don't go around thanking liberals for everything that the nominees have accomplished on their own." To put it bluntly, the strategy is to punish Hispanics (and blacks) who stray from the liberal line, in the hope of keeping those ethnic groups solidly inside the Democratic camp. Racism may be too kind a term for such tactics.
2/13/03: Susan Lee, a first rate economic journalist, has dipped her toe into the libertarianism vs. conservatism debate with a piece proclaiming that "the model of a free market functions as a template for all things", a proposition that used to be regarded as a parody of libertarian thinking. As I have discussed elsewhere, her argument for Freedom without Virtue is the opposite of the libertarianism of my youth and leaves its advocates with no grounds at all for preferring liberty to tyranny.
2/6/03: Showing its superiority to decadent capitalism, Red China has pulled off a feat that would be impossible here: Every single one of its 31 provinces last year had an economic growth rate faster than the national average. So reports The Daily Telegraph. Next up: squaring the circle, trisecting the angle and a perpetual motion machine.
2/5/03: From Mitchell Cohen, editor of Dissent, comes what I predict will be the classic summation of sensible left-wing opinion about the Iraqi war: "I will support Iraqi democrats, even if they are few in number and their prospects difficult. I am antifascist before I am antiwar. I am antifascist before I am anti-imperialist. And I am antifascist before I am anti-Bush." A pity that sensible left-wing opinion is so thin on the ground.
2/3/03: How do the bereaved families of the Columbia astronauts feel about the space program now? Here is what they have to say: "On January 16th, we saw our loved ones launch into a brilliant, cloud-free sky. Their hearts were full of enthusiasm, pride in country, faith in their God, and a willingness to accept risk in the pursuit of knowledge--knowledge that might improve the quality of life for all mankind. Columbia's 16-day mission of scientific discovery was a great success, cut short by mere minutes--yet it will live on forever in our memories. We want to thank the NASA family and people from around the world for their incredible outpouring of love and support. Although we grieve deeply, as do the families of Apollo 1 and Challenger before us, the bold exploration of space must go on. Once the root cause of this tragedy is found and corrected, the legacy of Columbia must carry on--for the benefit of our children and yours." (Reproduced from Best of the Web)
2/3/03: One group of Iraqis who will unreservedly welcome liberation from Saddam Hussein is the Assyrian Christian minority, whose first-rate Web site, called, I ran across today thanks to a link on Instapundit. The Assyrian Church is a remnant of Nestorianism, which spread Christianity across Asia in the Middle Ages. Had it not been for the premature death of Genghis Khan’s grandson, Great Khan Güyük, in 1248, the Mongols might well have embraced the Nestorian faith, and cities like Baghdad would today be, in all probability, Christian strongholds.
2/1/03: Transterrestrial Musings draws the lesson from today's tragedy: "Once again, it demonstrates the fragility of our space transportation infrastructure, and the continuing folly of relying on a single means of getting people into space, and doing it so seldom. Until we increase our activity levels by orders of magnitude, we will continue to operate every flight as an experiment, and we will continue to spend hundreds of millions per flight, and we will continue to find it difficult to justify what we're doing. We need to open up our thinking to radically new ways, both technically and institutionally, of approaching this new frontier."
2/1/03: Almost exactly 17 years to the day after the Challenger explosion, another space shuttle has been lost. Does that disaster portend another hiatus in the exploration of space? If I may quote what I said last year, commemorating Challenger, "There is no virtue in foolish risks, but there is less in perpetual timidity. The universe outside our tiny cocoon is a vast and deadly place. If we continue to go out into it, explorers will die, just as did most of those who crossed the Atlantic during the first two centuries after Columbus. But if those ages had been afflicted with NASA-level fearfulness, Columbus' descendants would yet be sitting on the docks of Seville, waiting for a perfect wind and a guaranteed safe passage."
1/30/03: It is hard to escape the suspicion that Senate Minority (how sweet that sounds) Leader Tom Daschle suffers from intermittent clinical insanity. Witness this press conference exchange with Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard: "DASCHLE: I don't think the administration has presented adequate, convincing evidence to say that [Iraq] can produce weapons to share with terrorists. HAYES: You don't think Saddam disarmed unilaterally, do you? DASCHLE: We don't have any concrete evidence that he has not."
1/29/03: David Frum draws a State of the Union moral: "The blocks around the Capitol were empty and faintly menacing as the Congress assembled to receive the President. The streets were closed and quiet and patrolled by more than a thousand police. As I walked through the sealed-off streets, walking the final two blocks toward the Russell Senate Office Building because my car could come no closer than Union Station, it occurred to me how we have already adjusted to the nearness of terror. It seems almost normal that the center of the nation’s capital should be isolated from the world when its President comes to visit. And I wonder: can we hold onto our conviction that it is not normal – and should never be accepted as normal?"
1/28/03: Best of the Web carries this item melding Pottermania, exploding litigation and the oddities of post-communist Russia: "'Dobby, the computer-animated elf in the new Harry Potter film, could be at the centre of a court battle over his resemblance to Russian president Vladimir Putin,' the London Evening Standard reports. 'A Russian law firm is reportedly drawing up legal action against the special effects people who dreamt up Dobby, arguing that the ugly but caring elf has been modelled on Mr Putin.'" I think that every Harry Potter fan should send President Putin a sock.
1/25/03: A new motion picture, To Kill a King, will, it seems, portray Oliver Cromwell "warts and all", that is, as "a homicidal thug". The Daily Telegraph reports that sundry liberal historians are distressed. Sounds like just the sort of film that I'll want to see.
1/23/03: We keep hearing that American health care is in a disastrous state. Why, then, are Americans living longer and suffering less from disabilities? It sure ain't our national obsession with exercise and diet. A report by Milliman USA concludes that "Americans are healthier than ever, and our health is improving. In this report, we summarize data ranging from mortality rates to disability and heart disease rates that paint an optimistic picture of the state of Americans' health."
1/22/03: On this saddest of anniversaries, Frederica Mathewes-Green, a former abortion rights advocate, summarizes "The Lessons of Roe". "Roe has taught us many lessons which now govern our lives in ways we can barely perceive. Instead of being one small tool for women's advancement, abortion opened a chasm, and a lot of unexpected things fell in. It turned out to be an irresistible force, because abortion makes things so much easier for everyone around the pregnant woman. Before Roe, unplanned pregnancy created many problems for many people — the woman's lover, her parents, her siblings, her boss, her landlord, her dean. Abortion changes the picture instantly: Just go get it taken care of, dear, and it will be as if it never happened. Women were expected to do the sensible thing and save everyone else a lot of fuss and bother. Overnight, unplanned pregnancy became her private problem, a burden for her to bear alone. Abortion-rights rhetoric compounded this effect with terms emphasizing her isolation: My body, my rights, my life, my choice. The flip side of all that first-person assertiveness is abandonment. The network of support that once existed had been shattered." She draws other lessons, too, all worth pondering.
1/22/03: The White House yesterday published Apparatus of Lies: Saddam’s Disinformation and Propaganda 1990-2003, detailing why the Iraqi tyrant deserves no more second chances. To my surprise, this report hasn't gotten nearly the press or blog coverage that it deserves.
1/22/03: One of the difficulties in convincing the general public of the wisdom of tax reduction is that most people have little concept of current levels of taxation. Pseudonymous blogger "Zonitics" notes that, according to a newly published poll, 53% of registered voters think that no one should pay more than 20% of his income in total federal, state and local taxes, and 78% believe that the burden should be no higher than 30%. In fact, taxes (admittedly defined rather broadly) absorb 39% of the average family's earnings, and federal income taxes alone take more than 20% from upper bracket taxpayers (as I have discussed elsewhere).
1/20/03: An editorial in today's Wall Street Journal reports Treasury estimates of the income distribution of the President's proposed tax cuts. The average reduction for all taxpayers is 12.3%, but a much bigger percentage cut goes to those making under $30,000 a year (17%) than to the over-$200,000 bracket (11.2%). Most favored of all (20.1%) is the $30,000-$40,000 range. Needless to say, left-wing class warriors will still complain.
1/16/03: Little Green Footballs notes that, as soon as Hans Blix's keystone kops found a dozen chem-weapon-capable Iraqi artillery shells, Eurocrat Javier Solano declared that the discovery showed that inspections are "working" and that nothing should be done about Saddam Hussein for the indefinite future. Of course, when the inspectors don't find anything, that also proves to Sr. Solano that nothing should be done. So what's the point of inspections?
1/16/03: Germany has a Consumer Affairs Minister, a Green Party fraulein named Renate Künast. Her job, it appears, is to protect consumers from low prices. The Daily Telegraph reports that Frau Künast wants to reinstate Hitler-era laws, repealed just last year, that severely limited the ability of stores to offer discounts. She naturally professes noble motives: Price competition is bad for the environment and drives inefficient enterprises out of business. And what about ordinary Germans who just want to stretch their euros a little further during an economic slump? They, one infers, are not part of the environment, and their travails don't matter at all.
1/16/03: For the historically minded, January 16th is both the 83rd anniversary of the official start of Prohibition and the 12th of the first bombing campaign of Gulf War I.
1/15/03: Iain Murray, whose Edge of England's Sword is among the most thoughtful and informative of political blogs, was abruptly fired today by his employer, the Statistical Assessment Service ("STATS"). According to Iain's account, the stated reason for the action was his blog. The concern was evidently not that he had been neglecting work in favor of blogging, for he had been given no warnings and his offer to discontinue updates was rejected. One's immediate suspicion is political animus, except that STATS appears to be right-of-center in its general outlook. Outsiders have no way to judge the rights and wrongs of the situation, but, whatever they are, The Edge of England's Sword is worthy of support and has a convenient tip jar for those who would like to keep it in business.
1/14/03: Most of us never set foot in an inner city school. We have a vague notion that they are pretty terrible, but our images are mostly of the Up the Down Staircase kind, tinged with hope. Joshua Kaplowitz, an idealistic young teacher, turned down a job with Al Gore's campaign to take a position at Washington, D.C.'s Emery Elementary School. His account of what happened there will destroy any optimism you have about the ability of the public education establishment to mend its dysfunctional ways.
1/14/03: Chris Patten, the anti-American, antisemitic external affairs minister of the European Union, must be distressed at missing the Idiotarian of the Year finals for 2002. His campaign for the 2003 honor is off to a rousing start with a declaration, reported by ABC News, that it will be hard to persuade the EU to help out in post-Saddam Iraq if the U.S. invades without the blessing of the United Nations. If he were trying only to spare the continent's overburdened taxpayers, I would have sympathy for his views, but his intention is simply to utter a pipsqueak threat. No doubt President Bush is trembling.
1/11/03: When Illinois Governor George Ryan was Secretary of State, he surrounded himself with bribe-swallowing cronies, whose misfeasance he either couldn't or wouldn't control. Now, as he leaves a governorship that he has disgraced, he makes his final gesture to the criminal classes by commuting every single pending death sentence (167 in total). His successor, a left-wing Democrat, denounced the action. Governor Ryan claimed that his "conscience" moved him, though that same conscience wasn't speaking up earlier in the week when he slipped a couple of pals into lucrative state civil service jobs. My conscience says that I had better be very ashamed to admit that I voted for that man in 1996. Should I ever own a time machine, my first action will be to take that ballot back.
1/9/03: For much of today, the on-line Wall Street Journal carried the headline, "Jobless claims dropped by 19,000 last week, far more than expected, though seasonal adjustments could be to blame." The news page, remember, is written by liberals. That they think of favorable unemployment news during a Republican administration as something for which blame needs to be placed is a fascinating Freudian slip
1/9/03: Not content with repealing trial by jury, the ban on double jeopardy, and other traditional protections, Britain's Labour government has legislation in the works, reports The Daily Telegraph, that would permit other EU countries to extradite Britons for acts that are not crimes in the U.K. and perhaps to send gendarmes across the Channel to make the arrests. "Britons never, never, never shall be slaves." Is it now just a nostalgic melody?
1/8/03: A Norwegian group wants "to carpet bomb the world with a message of support for all peace loving Americans", which means, naturally, a message of loathing for the warmongers who support George W. Bush, an "aggressive and unpredictable leader [who] is spreading fear and insecurity". Norwegian blogger Bjørn Stærk rides (sails?) to the rescue of his country's reputation for rational discourse by administering a sound dose of Fisk antidote. One bit of the letter's eloquent prose would be ominous if its sponsors were capable of serious thought: "If we can do anything to help you get rid of George W. Bush before he wrecks your reputation and messes up the whole planet, please let us know!" Bjørn observes that there are three ways to depose a sitting President: impeachment, coup d'etat, and assassination. Even Scandinavian loony leftists ought to recognize that the first two are impossible, so are they offering their assistance toward the third? No, they most likely have nothing in mind at all, but rhetoric like that would be viewed with alarm if directed by rightists against a liberal politician.
1/7/03: Time to start keeping score of my predictions for 2003. In one day I've missed twice: Tom Daschle isn't going to run for President and corollarily Harry Reid won't succeed him as Senate Minority Leader. OTOH, my forecast that his campaign wouldn't go anywhere has proven right, so shouldn't I get at least a half point? Maybe the Senator from South Dakota found it embarrassing to be in what looks like a jumping contest for one-legged frogs. The latest Zogby Poll of likely Democratic voters looked like this: Lieberman 11%, Kerry 9%, Edwards 9% (quadrupling his previous support), Gephardt 8%, Daschle 7%, Sharpton 3%, Graham 2%, Dean 2%, which leaves almost a majority in the Undecided camp.
1/4/03: Some Americans, mostly idealistic liberals, believe that television and radio stations ought to be held to high standards of public service and should lose their broadcasting licenses if they don't measure up. Norway has a system like that. Bjørn Stærk describes how, in the hands of an upright, conscientious Minister of Culture, it threatens to put the country's best and most popular radio station out of business.
1/2/03: Looking forward to the New Year, George Will offers this sure-to-be-right prophecy: "One thing will not change. This year the international left and its American fellow travelers will continue their descent to the moral level of the philosopher Martin Heidegger, the learned imbecile who said that of course the Holocaust was bad, but so is mechanized agriculture. The left, its anti-capitalism transmogrified into anti-Americanism expressed in the argot of anti-globalization, will repeat that of course Iraq and North Korea are dangerous, but so are McDonald's and Microsoft. Happy New Year."
12/26/02: The year 2002 had both good and bad news for space exploration. On the negative side of the ledger, the poor performance of launch vehicles is driving up insurance costs and thus making future launches even less affordable. On the positive side, the Bush Administration is taking a more rational approach to space policy than its predecessor, the private sector is making progress, and Mars turns out to have water, if not canals. Rand Simberg has the full story.
12/21/02: Trent Lott got little sympathy when he pleaded ignorance of the 1948 States Rights' Party platform. Over half a century has passed, and Mr. Lott was only seven years old at the time, but Senators are held to higher standards of historical awareness than schoolboys. What, then, are we to make of Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash), who thinks that Osama bin Laden has been a font of Third World charity, doing more to build roads, hospitals and even day care centers in Africa and Asia than U.S. foreign aid ever did? Senator Murray isn't seven, and bin Laden's activities are not decades in the past. If Senator Lott's endorsement of the Dixiecrats led many to suspect him of segregationist nostalgia, what sympathies are shown by fantasies (expressed in a prepared speech, not off-the-cuff remarks at a birthday party) about a terrorist's "good works"? The voters of Washington State will have the opportunity to ponder those questions in November 2004.
12/19/02: The always elegant James Bowman urges conservatives to forgive Al Gore. The fate of the Republic may depend on it! He would also like to see forgiveness for Trent Lott (though not forgetfulness, which is what GOP Senators will put on display if they keep the Mississippi blowhard as their leader). "In South Africa and Russia and Serbia they are officially forgiving murderers and torturers all the time; in America we cannot forgive anyone who harbors a private conviction that the South between 1880 and 1960 was not utterly defined by the relationship within it between white oppressors and black victims. That this relationship is all that remains of our collective memory of the world of Strom Thurmond, which is also the world of our parents and grandparents, is the essential datum on which the race-relations industry in America is increasingly founded. We are left to suspect that the dirty little secret of Lott’s accusers is that they know they must cherish the grievance of segregation as fervently and for as long as possible, just as the dirty little not-so-secret of Lott himself is that he is not really nearly so appalled by it as he has with ever more absurd extravagance to pretend to be."
12/11/02: Lazy post-Enron thinking has sunk the reputation of stock options to an all-time low. Most financial writers now seem to regard them as nothing more than corporate robbery. Interesting, then, is a study by professors at the University of Washington Business School, reported in the Tampa Bay Business Journal, which finds that, on average, each dollar of stock option compensation awarded to top executives is associated with a $2.85 increase in earnings over the following five-year period. One must remember the usual caveats about research of this sort, which tries to tease small effects out of imperfect data, but the result isn't quite what the negative buzz about options would lead one to expect.
11/29/02: Last week, I expressed doubts about the authenticity of the recent "Osama bin Laden" audiotape. Now the Toronto Star reports that Swiss analysts, after comparing the voice on the tape to 20 bin Laden recordings, have concluded that it is indeed a fake.
11/29/02: It's time for another plug for Jewish World Review, probably the best political/religious compilation site on the Web (for the conservatively minded, that is). Goyim are welcome, as are donations (tax-deductible, even).
11/20/02: Yes, Britain is our ally, and one should cut allies slack in time of war, but it is disheartening to watch the evisceration of "the rights of Englishmen". As the latest instances, (i) the government has declared that it will invoke the Parliament Act if the House of Lords throws out its bill to abolish the right to trial by jury and (ii) a journalist has been arrested on charges of "racism" after making a speech in favor of hunting, in the course of which he said that country dwellers were a minority entitled to the same solicitude as blacks. Such events make me grateful to my ancestors who had the good sense to leave Gloucestershire for America. BTW, back in 1911 opponents of the Parliament Act argued that it would someday be an instrument for abolishing liberties. Nobody believed them.
11/16/02: November 5th was a gloomy day not just for liberal Democrats but also for the plaintiffs' lawyers who now constitute, with the entertainment industry, liberal Democracy's financial and ideological base. Overlawyered has a roundup of key races. Particularly satisfying were the inability of billionaire tobacco settlement lawyers to buy seats in Congress and the rightward shift of the Ohio Supreme Court.
11/15/02: The Wall Street Journal has spotlighted the indicia of vote fraud in the South Dakota Senate race: a late-reporting county with an extraordinarily large number of votes whose pattern diverges sharply from that of demographically similar areas. GOP candidate John Thune was surely right not to ask for a recount; peering at the ballots again won't identify the ones cast by non-existent voters. But fraud can't be carried out by a lone crook, and South Dakota isn't Richard J. Daley's Chicago, where it was easy to hide back room machinations. It would be good for U.S. democracy, and even for the Democratic Party, which is acquiring a sleazy image that it would do well to repudiate, if the federal authorities would probe more deeply.
11/11/02: My home state of Illinois was one of the few bleak spots for Republicans last Tuesday, as the GOP lost both the governorship and control of the State Senate. Yet further probing suggests that all is not hopeless. The Democratic candidate for governor won 52% to 45%. Looking back, I see that the first Sun-Times poll after the primary gave him a lead of 52% to 34%. Thus all of the movement of opinion was toward the Republican candidate. The Democrat held his initial support and added nothing in eight months of campaigning. That fact hardly suggests that Republican themes resonate poorly in Illinois, nor does the loss of the Senate, which was due mostly to gerrymandering.
11/7/02: For what little it's worth, the Loony Left has figured out what really happened on November 5th: A vast Republican conspiracy stole the election and hid its skulduggery by suppressing exit polls, which are, of course, the only way that we can find out the real winners. For details, vide the links collected by Right Wing News, Isntapundit and Tim Blair. Several of the leftist wailings would do credit to Monty Python. For example, from the singularly well-named "morb_id_slug": "Its raining here, i bet its raining in Switzerland too to b fair, but my face is more grey than English (or Swiss) clouds could ever be. Not black with anger as thunderclouds, but grey as sleet, a mix of cold which represents my heart now that i can see the end clearly, wet as my tears that i shed for the first to be consumed by this hate mongering collection of conservative millionaires running the massive armed machine that is the US, and contaminated with grit as i lie helpless and ground at the side of the road as wagons of war roll past pushing my kindred to the kerbside and down the drain of impotence. words of a newly converted depressive." Sorry to hear it, morb. Luckily you live in the Utopia of Socialized Medicine, so the NHS will pay for Prozac. Unluckily, you're in 10,000th place in the queue and can't expect to get your pills until late 2015. Can sheer hatred keep you going until then?
11/7/02: Further evidence that Tuesday's GOP victory was bigger than it seemed: UPI reports that (i) Republican House candidates won 53% of the major party vote (compared to 50½% in 2000) and (ii) Republicans won a majority of state legislative seats for the first time since the Eisenhower Administration.
11/4/02: At the risk of sounding like either a cock-eyed optimist or a sucker for "Islam is a religion of peace" propaganda, I see little to fear in the victory of the perhaps crypto-Islamist AK ("Clean") Party in yesterday's Turkish elections. First of all, the magnitude of the win was an artifact of the electoral system. Parties must win at least 10 percent of the the vote to get any seats in parliament. Some 47 percent of the electorate divided among a multitude of parties that didn't clear that threshold. Thus, according to the latest figures that I've seen, AK's 34 percent translates into almost two-thirds of the seats, even though almost two-thirds of the total ballots were cast for secularist parties. That's scarcely evidence that Turkey is on the very of an Islamicist takeover. Second, it's been obvious for years that shutting religion out of Turkish public life was a futile policy. A professedly moderate party like AK is a better antidote to extremism than continued suppression. There's a risk that the party's moderation is a fraud, but the experiment is worth trying. If it succeeds, AK could point the way toward rational democracy is other Moslem countries.
10/30/02: has no "official" connection with the Democratic Party, but for some reason the party never repudiates this appropriation of its name, however bizarre the site's fabulations. Today's insinuation: "Why Didn't Bush and Ashcroft Want the Sniper Suspect Interogated?" The self-styled "aggressive progressives" don't say outright that the White House was behind the sniper killings and is now trying to silence its agent, but it ain't hard to tell what they think - or would like others to imagine. (As The Volokh Conspiracy points out, the whole story about how John Muhammad was just about to "tell all" is the transparent product of a pedestrian turf battle between law enforcement agencies.)
10/29/02: This is not the first such story to come out of Africa: The Daily Telegraph reports that Zambia, where up to 3 million people face imminent starvation, has refused to accept free corn from the United States, because some of it was grown from genetically modified seed. The reason stated by the government would warm the unreformed Ebenezer Scrooge's heart: "Zambia is worried that accepting GM products might harm budding European demand for its produce, in particular organic vegetables." So poor black Africans will die to preserve rich white Europeans from the risk of contact with impure squash. Thus does ecological superstition wreak its slaughter among the wretched of the Earth.
10/28/02: Jewish World Review, which I've mentioned several times before, is one of the best sites on the Web for cogent political and religious commentary. You don't have to be Jewish to like it! Alas, it takes money to run such an extensive and informative site, and money hasn't been flowing in bountifully. I urge whatever readership this site has to help secure JWR's future by donating. Credit cards are accepted.
10/23/02: The European Union has, by its own decadent standards, taken a strong stand against Robert Mugabe's tyranny, that is, it has barred officials of the Zimbabwe government from traveling to EU countries. That meant that Foreign Minister Stanley Mudenge wouldn't be able to attend an EU conference in Copenhagen. Herr Mudenge and the minions of other African despots complained, but the EU did not yield. It kept the travel ban in force, reports The Daily Telegraph - and moved the meeting to Mozambique. Is it any surprise that wimps who won't offend Mugabe shake in their slippers before Saddam Hussein?
10/23/02: As one might have anticipated, the last holdouts of the Hillarycare Brigade have regrouped in Oregon, where they have placed on the ballot a referendum that would establish a miniature system of socialized medicine, modeled on Canada's. A Canadian correspondent has these timely thought's in the NRO Corner: ". . . an in-law of mine lived in Minneapolis, and she and a cousin in Canada both developed gall bladder problems at the same time. Their circumstances were the same -- both young, both in pain but in no immediate danger -- and yet the one at the mercy of an evil American HMO had her surgery within two weeks, while it took the Canadian recipient of universal health care two months merely to have the diagnosis confirmed by a specialist. The surgery, needless to say, has not yet occured."
10/22/02: Every election day, New York City Republicans get out their cameras and track busloads of "voters" who travel from precinct to precinct casting multiple ballots. The ritual never does any good. Big Apple judges and prosecutors have no interest in knowing about vote fraud. Last Wednesday, the U.S. Congress passed the Help America Vote Act, one of the aims of which is to make blatant election stealing slightly more challenging by imposing minimal ID requirements on would-be voters. Only two Senators voted "nay", both Democrats from New York State. (Vide Katherine Mangu-Ward, "Holding Out on Reform".) Is that any surprise? With the Democratic candidate for Governor free falling in the polls, those itinerant busloads may be the party's last chance to avoid the ignominy of a third place finish. And one Senator could even be looking forward to calling on them in a Presidential race. Ya never know.
10/21/02: For all their belief in federalism and the importance of the States, conservatives tend to pay little attention to State judiciaries. Plaintiffs' lawyers, by contrast, pour money into the election campaigns of State and local judges, with the result that many State courts are bulwarks of left-wing activism. The Ohio Supreme Court, for instance, "has expanded liability in many unprecedented ways, struck down democratically enacted tort reform and revived the city of Cincinnati's lawsuit against the gun industry" (per The Left has, however, only a 4-3 majority, so this year's election could change matters. The Republican candidate is Lt. Gov. Maureen O'Connor, who served over 10 ten years as a lower court judge. Donations can be sent to O'Connor for Supreme Court, 214 West Weber Road, Columbus, Ohio 43202.
10/17/02: The Australian Red Cross has posted a Bali Appeal. Contributions can be made by credit card, and it would be a fine thing if many, many Americans donated to relieve the latest victims of terrorism.
10/16/02: Elsewhere on the electoral fraud front, a group called Democratic Socialists of America is advertising for contributions to help pay nonresidents of Minnesota to travel to that state on election day, take advantage of same-day voter registration and cast ballots for their ideological comrade Senator Paul Wellstone. Will the Wellstone campaign repudiate this illegal tactic? Will the Democratic Party? We wait, not too expectantly, for the answer. Update (10/17/02): The Democratic Socialists now insist that they only meant to ask for funds for an election day get-out-the-vote effort in behalf of Sen. Wellstone. It's hard to infer that innocent meaning from their words, but, if clarity of thought and expression were their strong suits, they wouldn't be socialists, so we must accept their explanation.
Update (10/28/02): Sadly, Senator Wellstone will not be able to benefit from the support, legal vel non, of organized Socialism. Even taking eulogies with a strong dose of de mortuis nil nisi bonum, it is obvious that few politicians in his divided generation were so well liked by their ideological foes. Perhaps, if he had lived, so nice a man would have come to see the folly of serving so nasty a cause.
10/16/02: As I have noted elsewhere, the steady erosion of the secret ballot through mail-in voting, widely accomplished by liberalizing absentee ballot requirements, seriously undermines democracy. The crudest, though not the only, danger is outright fraud. John reports on "Dead Men Voting" in the closely contested races in South Dakota. (And here is the same story from KSFY-TV in South Dakota.)
10/16/02: Another sign of the zeal of liberal newsies to find anti-war morals wherever they can. The Wall Street Journal's Web site (run by the run-of-the-mill news lefties, not the editorial page) greets today's stock market decline with "U.S. stocks sank Wednesday following a four-session rally after bellwether Intel posted disappointing results and Bush signed a resolution authorizing a war against Iraq." If that is meant to be a post hoc ergo propter hoc argument, we might recall that the previous four days' runup, the strongest in nearly 70 years, began on the day when Congress passed the Iraq resolution.
10/15/02: A major source of sympathy and support for the Palestinian Authority is Christian church leaders. Liberals like Arafatistan, because it is anti-Israeli, while ethnic solidarity has (alas) made it popular in some segments of the Orthodox and Eastern Roman Catholic Churches. A newly published study reveals what the PA does for Christians in return. David Raab, "The Beleaguered Christians of the Palestinian-Controlled Areas" should be read by anyone who is under the illusion that the Palestinians are any more tolerant than their Saudi and Iraqi sugar daddies. The Midwest Conservative Journal excerpts appalling highlights.
10/15/02: Desperately seeking a Peace Movement. A story on is titled "War Worries", with the subhead, "Support for Attacking Iraq Begins to Wane Across U.S.", yet it presents not a shred of evidence of "waning" support. We are given a series of man-in-the-street anti-war quotes, coupled with a rather pathetic, "Although organized demonstrations have yet to produce large crowds, there have been several protests." All in all, this story tells us nothing about the mood of America but quite a bit about the mood of the mainstream media, who keep hoping to turn Iraq into a second Vietnam. (Little Green Footballs fisks ABC in detail.)
10/15/02: For true political junkies, National Review Online's Corner has been following the crucial Iraqi Presidential "election" (scroll up from link), where the big question is whether Saddam Hussein's nonstop campaigning over the past several weeks will enable him to improve on the 99.96% share of the vote that he received last time out. Since 0.04% of the country's voters mysteriously vanished shortly after that election, his prospects are looking good.
10/14/02: Many discouraging words have been heard about the outcome of the Pakistani elections, where anti-American Islamicist parties did better than expected (though their "success" still left them third behind pro-military and pro-democracy parties). The Daily Telegraph reports, however, that more may be at work than an upsurge in support for Islamofascism: "Many observers believe that the surprise win by the mullahs did not surprise the army and Inter-Services Intelligence, but that the military sponsored the victory in an attempt to gain further concessions from America, ensure that the West does not question continued military rule and keep the Kashmir issue on the boil, ensuring a predominant role for the army." Elsewhere in the world, that might be conspiracy mongering. In Pakistan, it is more like simple realism.
10/14/02: The editors of The Wall Street Journal have said all that needs be said about Oslo's Folly: "The Nobel Peace Prize for Jimmy Carter is certainly well timed. As the West prepares to confront Saddam Hussein's tyranny in Iraq, the former U.S. President's award is a useful reminder of the limits of good intentions."
10/12/02: Dick Durbin, Illinois' Democratic Senator, likes to pass for a moderate, but he is so confident of reelection that he went with his heart last week and voted against authorizing war against Iraq. Illinois is not, however, San Francisco. There are good reasons why liberals here try to pass as middle-of-the-roaders. If any readers are interested in making Senator Durbin's disguise more difficult to wear, I remind them again that the Republican Senate candidate is Jim Durkin, to whom contributions may be sent at Durkin for U.S. Senate, 9999 Roosevelt Road, Westchester, Illinois 60154.
9/30/02: Simple carelessness or a lefty journalist's wishful thinking? I report; you decide. Before Senator Torricelli dropped his reelection bid, the Online Wall Street Journal carried a story about his rumored departure, including (as of 2:15 p.m. EDT) the sentence, "The senator's lead in polls has all but vanished, despite repeated public apologies." Er, the last Newark Star-Ledger poll showed the Torch down by 13 points. "All but vanished" seems a trifle understated.
9/28/02: My tiny violin weeps for the bad luck of the British Left. Their big demo against being nasty to Saddam Hussein drew 150,000 marchers, according to the Associated Press (earlier reports had much lower numbers - no explanation for the discrepancy), which would be fairly impressive, were it not for the fact that nearly three times as many turned out last weekend to protest a ban on fox hunting. It's pretty clear what is truly important to our British cousins, and I am confident that George W. Bush hears them: No fox that stands in the way of the Anglo-American drive on Baghdad will be left unsmitten.
9/28/02: The ostensible trigger for Tom Daschle's tantrum about "politicizing" the war was the President's statement that Senate Democrats' support of unionizing the Department of Homeland Security placed "special interests" above "the security of the American people". Stephen Hayes draws attention to a far more vehement expression of the same view: "Why was the U.S. Senate so fixated on protecting jobs instead of protecting lives? The U.S. Senate's refusal to grant this president and future presidents the same power that four previous presidents have had will haunt the Democratic party worse than Marley's ghost haunted Ebenezer Scrooge. Why did they put workers' rights above American lives? Why did that 2002 U.S. Senate--on the one-year anniversary of 9/11--with malice and forethought, deliberately weaken the powers of the president in time of war? And then why did this Senate--in all its puffed up vainglory--rear back and deliver the ultimate slap in the face of the president by not even having the decency to give him an up or down vote on his bill? This is unworthy of this great body. It is demeaning and ugly and over the top." The man who thus denounced Democratic Senators for "put[ting] workers' rights above American lives" was Senator Zell Miller, Democrat from Georgia.
9/28/02: Who would have suspected Russian semi-dictator, semi-populist Vladimir Putin of a wry sense of humor? From Charles Krauthammer: "In an interview with the German newspaper Bild shortly after Sept. 11, Putin recounted having talked to the Clinton administration about Osama bin Laden: 'They wrung their hands so helplessly and said, "The Taliban are not turning him over, what can one do?" I remember I was surprised: If they are not turning him over, one has to think and do something.'" Delivered with the right inflection - as it probably was - that "think and do something" is devastating.
9/27/02: Because it isn't in the American character to hold grudges, I suppose that our government will fairly quickly forget Herr Schröder's offenses and - odious phrase - "move on". Michael Barone presents good reasons why cheap absolution would be a mistake: "It will always be a fact that Schröder's government went to the polls with a cabinet minister who compared an American president to Hitler. That is not just a discourtesy to Bush; it is a libel against the American people, for it suggests that they would elect a president comparable to Hitler." Mr. Barone notes, too, that Herta das Hassefrau's "ingrained hatred of America and assumption that conservative Americans are equivalent to fascists will not be unfamiliar to those who have, as I have, had contact with the chattering classes of Europe. Däubler-Gmelin's remark tells you much about the culture and mind-set of the German and the European legal establishments." Another reason to look askance when those same establishments seek to subject American citizens to the dictates of the International Criminal Court.
9/25/02: As noted opposite, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin opposes U.S. military action against Saddam Hussein unless we get the blessing of other governments first, but that fact isn't likely to cost him his seat. If the local media report it at all, they will have forgotten the matter well before election day. The Chicago Tribune editorial calling for the Senator's reelection will almost certainly praise him as "a staunch ally of the President in foreign affairs". There is, however, a Republican candidate, the well-qualified, confusingly named and pitifully underfinanced Jim Durkin. Anyone who would like to make the race just a trifle closer can send contributions to Durkin for U.S. Senate, 9999 Roosevelt Road, Westchester, Illinois 60154.
9/25/02: Jonah Goldberg, National Review Online's enfant terrible, deserves several loud cheers for painstakingly restating the most obvious and overlooked point about "American imperialism": Americans have no interest in establishing or running an empire ("Not Getting America"). As young Jonah summarizes, "America is unique because it has the power to be an empire and has chosen not to be one. That choice wasn't merely a hard-headed calculation of our self-interest. And it wasn't an accident either. It was a moral choice, reinforced from one generation to the next. But because so many other nations failed that test, they assume nobody could pass it. Well, we did pass it and if we conquer Iraq we won't turn it into a colony. Hopefully, we'll teach it how to pass the same test."
9/18/02: Corporate America vs. Union America: Merrill Lynch today fired its vice chairman, after he refused to testify about the firm's dealings with Enron. Meanwhile, Rich Trumka, the second highest officer of the AFL-CIO, remains in his position, even though he took the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying about his role in the fraudulent Teamsters Union presidential election of 1996. The constitution of the AFL-CIO, incidentally, denies the right to hold office to any person who takes the Fifth in an investigation of union corruption.
9/17/02: Further evidence that the U.N. hierarchy has become a de facto Saddam ally: Reuters reports that the chief U.N. arms inspector has scheduled a meeting with Iraqi officials to discuss "practical arrangements" (i. e., conditions attached to Iraq's "unconditional" agreement) - ten days from now. That's a nice, leisurely pace. No doubt the parties will linger over their discussions, and, if all goes according to plan, inspectors will start arriving on the ground around the middle of December, after which they will spend several months wandering about under military escort, scrupulously drawing no conclusions until after the hot season (less convenient for military campaigning) returns. If Kofi Annan and his minions were serious about getting at the truth concerning Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear programs, they wouldn't be engaging in "preliminary talks" regarding "offices, flights, escorts and other planning". They would be telling Saddam that the inspectors are arriving tomorrow and he'd better not say "boo" to them if he wants to keep his head.
9/15/02: Charles Johnson's invaluable Little Green Footballs has picked up a report, from the United Arab Emirates newspaper Al Bayan via Australia, that Osama bin Laden's death has been confirmed by the nearest possible thing to eyewitness testimony. Shahid Ayan was hiding with bin Laden in his Tora Bora fastness last year. "Shahid said that late on December 10 – 'the 24th night of Ramadan' – there were 'some scary explosions' in the area where bin Laden's cave was located. 'The cave was completely erased from the ground and became nothing,' he said. 'This was the only cave of the 15 that was destroyed by an enormous 52ft (16m) missile and there is no doubt that bin Laden died.'" One can't believe every word printed in Arab papers, but, coupled with bin Laden's failure to reappear on the anniversary of 9/11 to gloat about his "victory over the infidel", this story convinces me that the little satan is now eating white grapes with Allah.
9/15/02: Oh, the horror of Global Warming! "Olives, palms and peaches grow in the parched earth. On a trellis, a vine hangs heavy with grapes, while the orchard is richly coloured with nectarines and pomegranates. It sounds like a sun-kissed paradise in the Mediterranean. But this is how the typical British garden could look within 80 years, according to a new study into the effects of climate change on plant life." So begins a report on the Daily Telegraph summarizing the Royal Horticultural Society's new study of the effect of warmer weather on English gardening. To forestall this we are supposed to sign our prosperity away under the Kyoto Treaty?
9/13/02: We keep hearing sneers at the "chicken hawks" who allegedly want to send others to invade Iraq. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that a loony left British MP named George Galloway has called for volunteers to go to Baghdad to form a human shield against U.S. attack. And will Mr. Galloway be standing proudly in the center of that shield? "Galloway said he did not intend staying in Baghdad with any volunteer human peace shield. His place was in the corridors of power and on the streets of London trying to persuade Britain to back out of a coalition with the United States." The chicken hawks are hostile speculation (has anyone asked Richard Perle or Mark Steyn whether he's willing to pick up a rifle against Saddam?), but we do seem to have a real chicken dove.
9/12/02: In response to President Bush's compelling speech to the U.N., Senator Tom Daschle bleats, "I don't think that the case for a pre-emptive attack has been made conclusively yet [emphasis added]." Exactly how much benefit of the doubt does Sen. Daschle believe Saddam Hussein is entitled to? I doubt that any case against the tyrant will ever be conclusive enough to satisfy the South Dakota Chamberlain, but there are 99 other Senators. Will the Majority Leader let them vote promptly on whether the case is conclusive in their eyes? Or will he insist that only his own negative vote be counted? Alas, one needn't be Tiresias to divine the answer.
9/11/02: BBC reports that the U.S. government has given a private company, TransOrbital of California, permission "to explore, photograph and land on the moon". The company's first launch is scheduled for next June. This welcome news does have an odd aspect. The United States doesn't own the Moon, so why did TransOrbital need to spend two years demonstrating to a bevy of bureaucrats that it will not "contaminate the Moon with biological material, pollute the lunar surface or disturb previous landing sites"? After much thought, I've concluded that this is a brilliant ploy to revive manned lunar missions. After all, if private landings are forbidden to contaminate, pollute and disturb, somebody will have to go to the Moon to verify compliance. Perhaps government regulation can play a positive role in the space progam.
9/9/02: As it becomes more and more obvious that the Rest-of-the-World not only can't but doesn't want to stop the U.S. from ridding it of Saddam Hussein, the dictator's friends are falling back on a last line of defense. From the president of the Arab League to turncoat Scott Ritter, they are urging Iraq to readmit UN weapons inspectors, in return for which gesture they expect President Bush to leave the tyrant in peace. Now, an ultimatum demanding the resumption of inspections may be useful in establishing a casus belli for the benefit of our more legalistic and timorous allies, but no imaginable system will do much real good in thwarting Iraqi weapons development programs. Iraq (172,000 square miles) is larger than California (159,000 square miles). Hiding fairly extensive research facilities from a handful of foreigners won't be much of a challenge, just as it didn't prove difficult before the UN was kicked out in 1998. The only effective surveillance force would be 100,000 or so strong, heavily armed and backed by massive air power - in other words, an army of invasion.
9/8/02: I had almost forgotten about the silly little poll ("Who Should Be Secretary of Homeland Security?") that I posted a long time ago (here and here). Since this site ain't Instapundit - or even Little Green Footballs - I was quite content that 19 votes had been cast in about two months. Of those, only two were for Bush choice presumptive Tom Ridge. Today, however, the Ridge family must have stumbled across Stromata, because 16 votes came in for Mr. Ridge in the course of a couple of hours. Are there any Donald Rumsfeld or Condaleeza Rice fans out there who would like to right the balance? Voting is free and worth every penny.
9/8/02: After years as a pacifist in the Browser Wars, I have had my convictions shaken. Bjørn Stærk, Norway's preeminent blogger, keeps plugging Opera. I finally decided that the price (free except for the time that it takes to download) was right and that I might as well give it a try. Now I wonder how I ever tolerated its bloated, bug-ridden rivals. Surfing with Opera is actually fun, not merely a task that has to be endured for the sake of access to the World Wide Web. There's only one down side: Quick and pleasant browsing has led me back to watching out for obscure wargames on eBay, which is doing my personal economy no good at all.
9/8/02: Today's silly t-shirt: "Photons have mass? I didn't even know they were Catholic."
9/5/02: It's easy to forget that we have been at war with Iraq, albeit at low intensity, for the past 11 years. The Daily Telegraph reports on a raid against enemy air defense facilities, noting en passant that Saddam's forces have tried 130 times this year to shoot down American or British aircraft.
9/5/02: Cultural critic and radio talk show host Michael Medved has parted ways with his flagship station, KVI in Seattle. Reading between the lines of the clashing statements by Mr. Medved and the station management, I infer that they had different notions about whether the program was a KVI product that had been picked up by syndicators or a syndicated show that was being subsidized by KVI. In any event, the quarrel doesn't seem to be ideological - KVI carries plenty of conservatives, many of them more rabid than Medved. FWIW, Michael is one of the few famous people whom I knew before they became famous. We were college classmates, back when he was an ardent, though not outlandish, liberal.
9/4/02: Reuters has drawn much fire for its refusal to refer to men who kill innocent women and children as "terrorists". Just trying to practice journalistic objectivity, the service's managers insist. So how about this objective caption: "Recovery and debris removal work continues at the site of the World Trade Center known as 'ground zero' in New York, March 25, 2002. Human rights around the world have been a casualty of the U.S. 'war on terror' since September 11. REUTERS/Peter Morgan"? Has Reuters become a subsidiary of Arab News? Is "Peter Morgan" a pseudonym for Noam Chomsky?
9/4/02: Some news surpasses parody. The Socialist government of Greece has, according to CNET News, banned all electronic games, from Quake to computer chess. The ostensible motive is to crack down on gambling, but what we're no doubt seeing is the reductio ad absurdam of the Left's distaste for technology, warfare and products associated with America.
8/25/02: Steven Plaut, some of whose pieces on life in wartime Israel are linked in File 911, has just published a novel titled The Scout, which he describes as "about life in northern Israel, and with assorted religious and Biblical thoughts". Daniel Pipes and Jeff Jacoby are among those offering commendations. From Dr. Pipes: "Plaut's fast-paced account reads like a novel but is even better - an informative and insightful page-turner that centers on the life of a Bedouin with uncanny tracking abilities. Read it, enjoy it and learn from it. Northern Israel won't look the same again." Available from Amazon.
8/22/02: The one dark cloud in the silver lining of the political demise of Rep. Cynthia McKinney (Nutcase- Ga.) is that headline writers everywhere, even at OpinionJournal, couple her fate with that of Bob Barr, defeated in the Republican primary on the same day. The two soon-to-be-ex-Congresscritters are treated as left/right mirror images, as if one were as extreme and irrational as the other. In fact, the likeness is less than epidermis deep. Rep. McKinney is a racist hatemonger who spins weird conspiracy theories about Presidential treason and draws financial support from friends of America's enemies. It's no surprise that the loony left Web site is a big Cynthia booster. Rep. Barr is colorful and noisy, but his accusations against Bill Clinton, charging that the man is a liar and a louse, were almost all proven true. Rep. McKinney lost her primary because ordinary Democrats found her embarrassing. Rep. Barr lost his because a gerrymander put him into the same district as a fellow Republican who was better known to the bulk of the voters. A proper GOP McKinney analog would be David Duke. Note that the Republican leadership united solidly against Duke's office-seeking ambitions. Somehow I missed Terry McAuliffe's parallel denunciation of Cynthia. Update: I see that The American Prowler's "Enemy of the Week" column was also annoyed by Barr-McKinney equivalency.
8/21/02: To ABC News, yesterday's brief hostage taking at Iraq's embassy in Berlin showed that "The White House is losing control of the debate over attacking Iraq". Forgive my naivete, but how does the rash action of a handful of fools - quickly repudiated by the White House and the leading Iraqi opposition groups - discredit the case for getting rid of Saddam Hussein as quickly and cleanly as we can? I note that ABC never calls terrorist acts by Palestinians"setbacks" for Yasser Arafat, not even when they are carried out by forces under his direct control. (Meanwhile, James Lileks denounces German unilateralism. How dare the krauts set foot on the embassy grounds, which are legally part of Iraq, without getting United Nations approval first!)
8/20/02: Cloud or silver lining? The two Chicago dailies both headlined new census reports this morning. The Tribune: "Rich 90's Failed to Lift All/ Income disparity between races widened greatly, census analysis shows." The Sun-Times: "Boom Shared by All Races in Chicago/ Unlike in New York, surge here benefitted all, new figures show."
8/20/02: Even if you're tired of reading about Iraq, don't miss Rand Simberg's "Administration Split on Europe Invasion", datelined two months before D-Day: "Fissures are starting to appear in the formerly united front within the Roosevelt administration on the upcoming decision of whether, where and how to invade Europe. Some influential voices within both the Democrat and Republican parties are starting to question the wisdom of toppling Adolf Hitler's regime, and potentially destabilizing much of the region. . . ."8/18/02: 20th Century warfare was the most destructive in human history, but the 21st Century trend may be in the opposite direction. New Scientist reports on High Power Microwave weapons, already in the U.S. arsenal, that disable computers and other electronic devices but have no effect on people (except for those who believe the "microwaves cause cancer" theory). As the linked article notes (perhaps ruefully, given New Scientist's unwaveringly left-wing politics), HPM munitions can render useless the deep underground bunkers that Saddam Hussein's regime has built to protect its command-and-control apparatus.
8/15/02: Politicians who are leaving office occasionally say what no one else will. Or what no one else should. Outgoing Illinois Governor George Ryan, discredited by steadily unraveling scandals from his days as Secretary of State, showed up like Banquo's ghost at a Republican gathering yesterday. The Chicago Tribune reports that he blasted party "ingrates" for deserting him, merely because some of his closest aides took bribes to issue phony drivers' licenses to incompetent truck drivers, leading to several deaths; pretty dumb but explicable as blindness to one's own lapses. But he then launched into what amounted to a generalized defense of corruption, denouncing the Democratic candidate for Attorney General for saying that shady dealings by her father, the State Speaker of the House, merit investigation. Governor Ryan could see nothing in that stance but filial disloyalty. Jim Ryan, this year's GOP gubernatorial candidate, has called on his unrelated namesake to resign. Incidents like this one illustrate why that would be an excellent idea.
8/15/02: Tax Notes Today [link for subscribers only] observes that the IRS's list of public charities eligible for tax-deductible contributions, still includes the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, which the government identified last December as a funding conduit for terrorist groups. The preamble to the list notes that contributions to organizations designated by executive order as having terrorist ties are generally nondeductible, but, as Marcus Owens, the former director of the IRS's Exempt Organizations Division, points out, few potential donors will track down the text of E.O. 13224. Continued listing of the foundation encourages the flow of funds to it, whether or not deductions are someday disallowed. Perhaps those who complain that the government is lackadaisical in its pursuit of real terrorists (even as it cracks down on tweezers on airplanes) know what they're talking about.
8/12/02: Today is the almost unremarked 30th anniversary of the departure of the last U.S. combat troops from Vietnam. Owing to a kind of consensual collective amnesia, Americans do not look back on that day with shame. As Lewis Sorley's A Better War chronicles, the United States won an impressive victory in Vietnam, then threw it away as our political class became obsessed with the supposed evils of our ally and engineered its downfall. In the end, Congress denied South Vietnam the small quantity of assistance that it needed for survival, even to the point of refusing to sell it ammunition, spare parts and fuel. Later America pulled itself together and won the Cold War. Billions of people are freer today as a consequence - but we still owe something to the millions who remain imprisoned in Vietnam.
8/8/02: It took less than a year for George Gilder to learn that the market isn't ready for a visionary business magazine. After apparently losing quite a sum of money, he has given The American Spectator back to its founder Bob Tyrell, who, to judge by his statement on the magazine's revamped Web site has learned a little bit from the Spectator's astonishing rise and fall duing the Clinton era. If what was once a leading journal of conservative ideas is now returning to its original mold, that is good news for the Right. (Vide 10/25/01 for more about TAS.)
8/8/02: Hey! Tipper Gore and I almost had something in common: It looked like neither of us was willing to pay good money for a Bruce Springsteen concert. But the Pretender's consort wilted under adverse publicity, paid for the tickets after all and now insists that she never intended to do anything else.
8/5/02: According to a new poll (details via Byron York):
"Believe almost nothing of what he says": Clinton 44%, Gore 26%, Bush 13%
"Believe all or most of what he says": Clinton 12%, Gore 12%, Bush 30%
8/2/02: A Hamas spokescriminal has deemed it prudent to offer semi-apologies for his outfit's murder of five Americans at Hebrew University. His statement is even odder than one might have anticipated: "The fighter of Hamas did not ask the students about their identity cards and he can't do so. He does not know if they are Arab or Israelis [emphasis added]. But we are not targeting at all American targets." If those words mean anything, they say that "the fighter of Hamas" was indifferent to killing fellow Arabs, just so long as he slaughtered Jews along side them. Hitler comparisons are trite, but not even his Jew-hatred was so obscenely unbounded.
8/2/02: O frabjous day! Calloo! Callay! Norwegian blogger Bjørn Stærk is back from his month-long vacation. Anyone who is inclined to write off all Europeans as America-hating wimps should read Bjørn's trenchant comments on war, politics and multiculturalism.
8/2/02: Rudyard Kipling's "City of Brass" seems, as John Derbyshire points out, very much on point these days.
8/1/02: Just over three years ago, all of the members of the European Commission, the EU's executive organ, resigned in disgrace after revelations of cronyism and other mismanagement. Their replacements promised to clean house. A new internal study, reported in the Financial Times and the Daily Telegraph but unlikely ever to be published, reveals that those promises have not been kept. Next to the Eurocracy, Enron was a pillar of accounting rectitude!
7/30/02: Right after 9/11, it seemed obvious that al-Qaeda sympathizers would launch attacks against American Web sites and computer networks. So far, any such offensive has been invisible, but that is not, James S. Robbins reports, for want of trying. Of course, fanatics who dismiss the whole modern era as evil may not be expert at cybernetic warfare.
7/29/02: Another lowlight of the Clinton interview noted below was the ex-President's expostulation on his own sense of fair play: "I didn't blame his father [the first President Bush] for Somalia." The implication is that he could legitimately have placed responsibility for the "Black Hawk Down" fiasco on his predecessor but nobly chose not to. Except that (1) George H. W. Bush had left office over eight months earlier; (2) since then President Clinton had carried on a practically identical policy of random pursuit of local warlords, without any clear objective; and (3) Clinton's Secretary of Defense had, a few weeks before the disastrous operation, turned down the local commander's request (supported by then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs Colin Powell) for armor to reinforce his lightly armed contingent. If Mr. Clinton had tried at the time to claim that events in Somalia were still the former President's doing, not even the liberal media would have been able to keep straight faces.
7/29/02: In a typically whiney radio interview last Friday, Bill Clinton claimed that he had begun warning about corporate accounting practices in 1998 and had been stopped by Republicans from doing anything about them. By that the Big He means that his SEC chairman Arthur Levitt "tried to stop the Enron accounting practice of accountants being the consultants, [but] the other party stopped us". Three problems with this historical revisionism: (1) No one has yet produced a scintilla of evidence that Arther Andersen's acquiescence in Enron's accounting had anything to do with its non-audit consulting for the company. (2) Congressional opposition to chairman Levitt's crusade against the performance of non-audit services for audit clients was widespread and bipartisan. (3) While there is no way to know what might have been, the diversion of staff resources to this side issue cannot have improved the quality of the SEC's oversight of corporate financial reporting. It remains undeniable that almost all of the dubious accounting that is now making headlines got its start during the last Administration. If the President back then had been a Republican, no liberal would regard that fact as a mere coincidence.
7/25/02: Discrediting J. Edgar Hoover remains an obsession with many leftists. One of their favorite tales, repeated so often that some sensible people have come to believe it, is that the FBI director used to flounce about in skirts in the company of pretty boys. Ronald Kessler, author of The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI, tears this black legend apart in a History News Network article, "Did J. Edgar Hoover Really Wear Dresses?"
7/23/02: The Associated Press lists the nine deadliest attacks masterminded by Salah Shehadeh, miltary chief of Hamas. Over 150 Isralis were murdered in these incidents. Yesterday, an Israeli missile destroyed Shehadeh's house, killing him and (according to Hamas) 13 others, including (again according to Hamas) nine children. No one can be pleased by the collateral damage, but it is intolerable to hear European politicians, whose only response to Shehadeh's death toll was to shovel more dough to the Palestinians and demand Israeli restraint, now denouncing his execution as if it were an act of terrorism.
7/23/02: The British Conservative Party has picked a woman as its chairman, and even the Daily Telegraph, which should know better, calls the appointment "an attempt to show that the party [is] becoming more open and tolerant". If giving important posts to women is the standard for openness and tolerarance, didn't the Tories meet it some years ago? I seem to recall that they had a fairly important job for a gal named "Thatcher".
7/22/02: Far be it from me to claim to be more rapidly perceptive than others, but compare these July 9th comments to what the Wall Street Journal says today: "Since President Bush unleashed the political furies on the private sector with his speech on July 9, stocks on the Dow have fallen by about 13.5%, including another 4.6% on Friday. This can only mean that investors are demanding more regulation, more punitive laws and more anti-business rhetoric, right? Believe it or not, that's what some people with allegedly above-average IQs are writing. The truth is closer to the opposite, with investors now discounting not just for market risk but for a new and dangerous element of political and regulatory risk. With Congress in a stampede, and Mr. Bush abdicating veto oversight, the law of unintended consequences is in the saddle riding events." Sad but true, though, if the feds don't destroy capitalism in their rush to save it, they've created the greatest buying opportunity since the crash of (remember it?) 1987.
7/20/02: The 33rd anniversary of the most memorable positive event of my lifetime is a melancholy occasion. As I once heard science fiction writer Jerry Pournelle lament, "I was always sure that I would see the first man on the Moon. I didn't expect to see the last."
7/19/02: Today I learned from a former Arthur Andersen employee the real reason behind the firm's collapse: It had a policy forbidding alcohol at any firm function held during business hours. See what comes of disregarding In vino veritas?
7/19/02: The implication of this Associated Press story about Rep. James Traficant (D.-Ohio) was presumably inadvertent: "Traficant was convicted in April by a federal jury of bribery, tax evasion and
racketeering. The question before his fellow lawmakers was whether he also was guilty of violating congressional rules."
7/17/02: Graef Crystal of, a commentator not notable for his complaisance toward corporate management, has taken a quick look at the empirical evidence concerning large stock option grants.  His conclusion: "It is way too simplistic to argue that large stock options lead to unethical or even criminal behavior." On the other hand, he found no proof that they "motivate excellence". "We are dealing with a cost-benefit equation here. Options are costly, and if the cost rises enough, it can overwhelm benefits that might otherwise have been obtained." Not an earth shaking realization but more sensible that much of the shrill punditry on the subject.
7/17/02: Perhaps, suggests Reason magazine intern Jeremy Lott ("The End Is Nigh - Again"), advocates of a "wall of separation" between Church and State should pay more attention to the quasi -religious aspect of environmentalism. "[T]he establishment clause of the First Amendment has long set the benchmark for our government's mostly hands-off approach to things religious. It's hard to see why public school teachers, for instance, are not able to tell Johnny that he's steeped in sin and headed for hell unless he sees the error of his ways, but are encouraged to lecture about parallel metaphysical beliefs about luxuriant living and phantom environmental destruction. And it has been even more problematic that the U.S. government subsidizes various environmental groups." A corollary, he points out, is that conservatives should be vigorous in defending the right of the enviros to practice their religion. He has a point. Tertullian's "credo quia absurdam" neatly fits the Green profession of faith.
7/16/02: Investors are, we are told, distrustful of corporate earnings numbers and need new legislation for reassurance. Today quick legislative action became a certainty, as the House passed a bill much like the Senate's. The Dow fell 166 points, continuing the downward trend that began when President Bush's aides announced over the 4th of July weekend that he was signing on to "tough" reforms. If the market really pines for stiffer regulation, it reacts to good news in a peculiar way. What seems really to be happening, as I have suggested elsewhere, is the repricing of shares to reflect the safety-first, low risk-low reward mentality that the new rules will foster among top executives, with an extra shove in anticipation of a great absorption of management time and talent in dealing with disputes over what should have been reported in the past. With such fertilizer does Washington "grow" the economy.
7/12/02: The Wall Street Journal 's science columnist (a pinko from the news side) is afraid that a space-based missile defense system will create debris in low earth orbit if it ever has to be used for real. If she is correct, that would be pretty bad (though her concept of the volume of low earth orbit seems rather innumerate), but would the detriment really be worse than a nuclear strike on, say, New York?
7/11/02: In truly eccentric news, a window honoring Christopher Marlowe has been installed in the Poets' Corner at Westminster Abbey. That isn't the eccentric part, of course; Marlowe, the second greatest Elizabethan dramatist, much deserves that accolade. The strangeness arises from the birth and death dates in the inscription: "1564-?1593". Somebody in authority - the Daily Telegraph doesn't identify the fool - added the question mark in response to lobbying by the Marlowe Society, a nut group that promotes that idea that Marlowe's death was faked and that he went on to write the plays of William Shakespeare. In fact, few deaths of 16th Century commoners are as well documented as Marlowe's. There was a coroner's inquest, and the transcript is still exant. The Marlowe Society's theory requires a vast conspiracy, up to and including Queen Elizabeth, formed for no visible purpose beyond mystifying later generations. Count this incident as a sign of the decline of rationality in the modern world.
7/10/02: Is there any point in trying to parody this guy? Or is his "rip" cord all tangled up?
"If I had to do it all over again, I'd just let it rip. To hell with the polls, tactics and all the rest. I would have poured out my heart and my vision for America' future." -- Al Gore, July 2002
"I'm throwing away the prepared text, and my attitude is, 'let it rip'. I'm just going to speak from the heart about the issues that I hear people saying are of most concern to them." -- Al Gore, October 1999
7/10/02: Western civilization may not be in such dire straits after all. From National Review Online's Mike Potemra: "A cute, amiable young blonde on the crosstown bus had a tattoo on her wrist saying "odi et amo." I asked her if she was a fan of Catullus, and she admitted she had never heard of him; she was then delighted when I informed her that a Roman poet had coined her motto some 2,000 years ago. She asked me how to spell his name so she could look him up."
7/9/02: Lest we forget an important reason for the slowness of economic recovery: "We won't guess the relative wages of a unionized steel worker and the employees who work in drum-making shops. In the 1980s, when the Republicans last indulged a steel protection binge, Washington University of St. Louis found that three jobs elsewhere were lost for every job saved in steel. Today, one group of manufacturing workers, who happen to be holding their own in the world economy without handouts, are having their pockets picked to support another group who aren't. Big Steel has been given half a dozen chances in the past 30 years to slim down and speed up behind various tariff and quota walls. The industry then uses up one of its politically granted nine lives and keeps coming back for more." -- The Wall Street Journal
7/8/02: Thought for the day: "Vegetarians don't live longer; they just look older." -- (with apologies to Bekah)
7/7/02: The shadow of political correctness hangs lightly over Romania. BBC reports that a new fresco adorning a Defense Ministry chapel in Timosoara depicts Osama bin Laden as Satan riding an airplane to Hell.
7/6/02: In a story about amateur terrorist Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, ABC News remarks that the Moslem gunman "was apparently an unknown in the mosques attended by most of Southern California's 1 million Arab Americans". <sigh> The great majority of Arab Americans are Christians, and many of them came to this country to escape Moslem persecution, but those facts elude the media.
7/5/02: Some time ago, I complained about how contemporary libertarians have lost intellectual contact with their predecessors and now argue that virtue doesn't exist in place of the old libertarian position that freedom is an indispensible prerequisite to virtue. Dinesh D'Souza ("What's So Good About America?") has either exhumed or independently rediscovered that point of view and applies it to the new conflict with Islamofascism.
6/30/02: The usual bloviators are shrieking about the U.S. veto of an extension of the United Nations "peacekeeping" mission in Bosnia. (Vide David Chandler's  "The King of Bosnia" for a glimpse of what U.N.-imposed peace entails.) Unless American troops participating in the mission are exempted from arrest and prosecution by the new "International Criminal Court", the Bush Administration will withdraw them. Contrary to the shriekers, that stand is in the best interests not just of the United States but also of the fledgling court. Since our country does not recognize the ICC's jurisdiction, we could only treat the "arrest" of an American citizen by its agents as kidnapping. While we would no doubt try to resolve the situation peacefully, the protection of citizens from foreign banditti is one of the fundamatental duties of government, and there is no doubt that the American military has the means to rescue one of its own from imprisonment in the Hague. (The unionized Dutch army would, one suspects, sensibly down tools if ordered obstruct the 82nd Airborne.) Do friends of the ICC really want it to risk playing Raisuli to a future Perdicaris? If not, they should drop their empty assertion of authority to try American soldiers.
Further reading: The Daily Telegraph, "Lone Stand for Justice"
6/28/02: Drifting steadily away from reality, Al Gore has blamed President Bush's economic policies for the recent wave of accounting scandals. His words, as reported in the New York Daily News, "You see now what it means to have an administration that's that committed to fighting and working on behalf of the powerful, and letting the people of this country get the short end of the stick." Except that the acts that underlie the Enron, Global Crossing and other scandals mostly took place while Mr. Gore was Vice President. (Worldcom's fiddling with the distinction between current expenses and capital expenditures did begin in 2001, but that is just about the only exception, and the SEC suspects that there were earlier shennanigans.) Did Bush policies have retroactive effects? Algore may think so. After all, plenty of his fellow Dems believe that the Bush tax cut caused an economic slump that was under weigh before it was enacted.
6/27/02: The aptly nicknamed EU-niks are no doubt secretly proud of being military nonentities. War is so - so Yankee. But the armed forces aren't the only area in which decades of soft leftism have left their mark. From today's Wall Street Journal: "The European Commission, the European Union's executive arm, said Thursday that the U.S. spent 40% more than the EU [on research and development] in 2000, calling it 'worrying.' In 2000, the U.S. spent 288 billion euros ($282.8 billion) on R&D in medical technology, aviation, pharmaceuticals and other fields, while Europe spent 164 billion."
6/27/02: Ever wonder what sort of folks might be dumb enough to answer e-mail from Nigeria? The Daily Telegraph reports that four Portuguese women have complained to the police about a phony doctor who persuaded them to stand topless on their balconies so that they could be given mammograms by satellite photography.
6/26/02: Christopher Johnson of the Midwest Conservative Journal, initially skeptical of the President's democracy-in-Palestine plan, admits to second thoughts after reading Robert Fisk's reaction. In Fisk's universe, Yasser Arafat is a CIA stooge whom Ariel Sharon (acting through his puppet George W. Bush) has now decided to replace with a yet more amenable creature! When will this acute correspondent hit upon the truth: that Sharon, Bush and Arafat, not to mention Conrad Black and Rupert Murdoch, are all clones bred on UFO's?
6/24/02: One of the less important current controversies is the outcry raised by Peggy Noonan, Mickey Kaus, Glenn Reynolds and others against the term "Homeland Security". "Homeland" is not, these critics claim, a natural locution for Americans. It sounds too "teutonic" (though "homeland" is hardly, I should think, in the same league as "fatherland"). Professor Reynolds calls it "creepy". While my linguistic sense doesn't react the same way, this objection isn't completely absurd, so I have a solution to propose. The tasks delegated to the proposed "Department of Homeland Security" are what common parlance calls "defense": preventive or reactive measures to thwart attacks by our enemies. Hence, the new entity's logical name is "the Department of Defense". It's true that that name is already in use, but we can take this occasion to reverse a namby-pamby post-WWII euphemism by restoring to the organization responsible for conducting military operations its historical and accurate title: the Department of War. In the new millennium, let's start calling things by their proper names!
6/23/02: Osama bin Laden's 8-month silence is explicable by only two plausible theories: He either died or was severely wounded in the fighting in Afghanistan. We should soon learn which, now that al-Qaeda spokesidiots have promised a television appearance in the near future. If al-Jazeera shows a video of Osama talking out of synch with his lips, we can be pretty sure that the petty satan has already met his 70 virgins or raisins, whichever it is, in Mahound's paradise. There is, of course, the interesting possibility that, shades of Robert Heinlein's great Double Star, his organization has found a lookalike to take over its departed leader's role.
6/21/02: Jimmy Carter's National Science Advisor opposed burying radioactive waste, because glaciers would unearth it during the approaching Ice Age. Andrew Kenny ("Prepare for the Big Chill") recalls that environmentalist fear and argues that the primary reason for its replacement by Global Warming is that there's no way to blame glaciation on the United States and multinational corporations.
6/21/02: Scarcely anyone remembers Bosnia, where the U.S. and E.U. years ago installed a "transitional" government that is unlikely ever to stop transitioning. The country's self-rule is as illusory as that of a princely state under the British Raj, and, fittingly enough, a failed British politician fills the role of political officer. In "The King of Bosnia", David Chandler throws acid on His Majesty's weird notions of how to nurture poltical maturity by substituting his own judgement for that of the benighted electorate.
6/20/02: While newspapers and Web sites proclaimed in headlines that Yasser Arafat had called on Palestinians to stop killing Israeli civilians, they buried paragraphs down the information that Wednesday's attack, murdering seven, was carried out by the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a unit of Arafat's own Fatah. It seems that "General" Arafat doesn't want to stop terrorism, just monopolize it.
6/20/02: The Daily Telegraph and the Washington Post report on a new study supporting, though not conclusively proving, the view that adult stem cells are just as useful medically as cells "harvested" from embryos. The one flaw in the pieces is that they give the impression that this study is unique. For information about many other promising developments along the same lines, vide Wesley J. Smith, "Spinning Stem Cells". Less cheering was the news that a asteroid about the size of a soccer field came within 75,000 miles of colliding with the Earth last Monday. If it had hit, its impact would have been comparable to a 10 megaton hydrogen bomb, and we may be sure that Hamas, Hezbollah and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade would all have rushed to claim responsibility.
6/20/02: A new reason to praise or deplore Henry VIII: According to research reported in the Daily Telegraph, his dissolution of the monasteries dealt a mortal blow not only to Catholicism in England but also to a nascent industrial revolution. The monks at Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire had built the world's first working blast furnace capable of producing cast iron in quantity. But in 1538 the monks were expelled, and their technique was lost for 200 years.
6/19/02: It's time for a plug for Jewish World Review, perhaps the best Web site around for politically conservative and morally traditionalist commentary. These articles by Lou Marano and Rod Dreher give details. High quality is not, alas, easily translated into enough revenue to make the site self-supporting, and the editor can't afford to subsidize it indefinitely out of his own and his wife's pockets. Anyone who would like to help out can send a tax-deductible contribution to the site's sponsor, Keren Yehoshua V'Yisroel, c/o Black, 125 Carey Street, Lakewood, New Jersey 08701. State clearly in a cover letter or on the check that the donation is to support Jewish World Review, so that it gets to the right place.
6/19/02: Quite a few commentators have observed that liberals condemn the Roman Catholic Church for doing too little to keep child molesters out of the ranks of the priesthood and the Boy Scouts for doing too much to reduce the risk of pedophilic scoutmasters. Leslie Carbone, "Hypocrites on Homosexuality" makes the point with unusual force. The liberal/libertinarian response will be, I suppose, that active homosexuals should not be kept away from young males until after they have committed an offense. Think of it as an extension of the common law rule that every dog is entitled to one free bite.
6/19/02: The free market is more effective than censorship. A study reported in the Washington Post finds that placing an ad in the middle of a sex-saturated TV show reduces its effectiveness, particularly among the sponsor-coveted 18-to-25 year-old group. So advertisers have a motive for demanding better fare.There's no firm guarantee, however, that the current generation of witless writers and producers can deliver.
6/19/02: The State Department's Web site used to include a detailed advisory on "Marriage to Saudis", which warned women contemplating that step: "Since the overwhelming majority of American citizen wives never travel to the Kingdom prior to their marriage, they are abruptly catapulted into Saudi society. When they arrive, their husband's traditional dress, speech, and responsibilities to his family re-emerge and the American citizen wife is left to cope with a new country, a new language, a new family, and a new husband." In March 2000, in response to protests from the American Muslim Council, State removed the document. It was, as Walter Winchell used to say, "full of vicious truths". (via Anne Wilson)
6/13/02: Opponents of sex education in schools are supposed to be ideologues who let their prejudices override facts - and some of them are. On the other hand, it is sex-ed supporters who are unfazed by the continual stream of evidence pointing to the failure of their nostrum to reduce either unprotected sex or pregnancies among students. The Daily Telegraph reports on the two latest studies, which show uniform lack of success for conventional, explicit and abstinence-based programs. For this subject, it seems, pool halls are no worse educators than classrooms, and a darn sight cheaper!
6/12/02: If you are really, really tired of e-mail from Nigeria, Tim Blair, Australia's almost-lone voice of sanity, has composed a message for transmittal to random Nigerians. My employer has, amazingly, found it worthwhile to distribute a warning against responding to these scams. It appears that some people fall for them, demonstrating once again that P. T. Barnum was a master of understatement.
6/10/02: Pseudonymous prison doctor Theodore Dalrymple sheds new light on the capital punishment debate in the June issue of The New Criterion: "There have been many more hangings in my prison since the abolition of the death penalty than there ever were before. It is as if the gods demand human sacrifices, and if the state does not carry them out, the prisoners themselves have to step into the breach in their own amateur fashion. It seems from the statistics that an official execution, with all its attendant solemnity and ceremony, is more pleasing to the gods than three or four suicides and murders. The gods like a little formality."
6/9/02: France has returned James Kopp, accused of murdering an abortion provider, to the U.S. As a pro-lifer, I believe that, if convicted, Mr. Kopp should be executed. That won't happen, because a condition of the French extradition was that he not be subject to the death penalty. Happily, a way around that prohibition has been found. As Andrew Stuttaford pointed out yesterday, there is one jurisdiction against which the European Union does not enforce its anti-capital punishment taboo. Let's subcontract Mr. Kopp's punishment to the Palestinian Authority.
6/7/02: I have nothing against British Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, but isn't there something odd about this sentence (part of a passage quoted favorably by the estimable Iain Murray)? "It [reasserting conservative values] means understanding that communities are made by men and women, they are not man-made." I don't think that IDS's main point was to express his dissent from the opinion that communities are made only by males.
6/7/02: A flock of Colorado teenagers scattered across the Loop today, handing out free copies of She Said Yes, the biography of Columbine victim Cassie Bernall. Her story - she was murdered immediately after affirming her belief in God - is both touching and a reminder of the part that militant atheism played in the world view of the Columbine killers. Luckily, that brand of anti-Western ideology has yet to find its Osama bin Laden.
6/6/02: Seamlessly combining three or four distinct bigotries, the wife of the director of the European Central Bank blames the problems of Palestine on an "elite club of rich American Jews".
6/6/02: More evidence that the people of Europe are a cut above their governments: The Daily Telegraph reports that the mark is enjoying a revival in parts of Germany. Through an obvious oversight, the pols neglected to make it illegal for shops to accept the old currency, though they are required to give change only in euros.
6/5/02: The first TV ads are appearing in the Illinois governor's race, all downstate buys. Attorney-General Jim Ryan (R) has a spot emphasizing Democratic Rep. Ron Blagojevich's record on gun control, abortion and same-sex unions. Blagojevich is an ultraliberal who relies on an ethnic surname for a veneer of moderation. If he were "Ron Smith", he would have no political future outside Lakeshore Liberal Land. Naturally, he would prefer that downstate voters not know that, so his campaign is already wailing about the unfairness of "attack ads". Meanwhile, his own spot tries to link the attorney-general to the scandals surrounding outgoing Governor George Ryan (no relation to Jim). That flimsy charge evidently qualifies as high-minded discussion of the issues.
6/5/02: Another Johnson worth noting on Middle Eastern matters is Chris, of the Midwest Conservative Journal, who neatly skewers a group of witless Espiscopalian clerics back from a factoid finding mission to the West Bank.
6/5/02: Yesterday Charles Johnson's Little Green Footballs commented on the CIA director's visit to the Palestinian Authority: "I'm sure the Palestinians are also working hard to give Tenet their traditional welcome for visiting US officials - a bloody massacre in a shopping center or restaurant." That didn't take much prescience, did it? Both the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which reports directly to Nobel Peace Prize laureate Arafat, and Islamic Jihad, to whom he last weekend offered cabinet positions, rushed to assume blame murdering at least 16 Israelis and wounding dozens more.
6/5/02: If only the Titanic had had e-mail, history might have been different, or not.

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