April 30, 2002
NO SELF-RESPECTING FISH WOULD BE WRAPPED IN IT :M's stance, not word, offensive (LAURA VECSEY, April 30, 2002, SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER)
A few ticket holders dialed up local TV and radio stations to wage a public protest about the way the Mariners banned them from entering Safeco Field if they wore "Yankees Suck" T-shirts.
The shirts were sold near the ballpark by vendors hoping, like the Mariners, to capitalize on the high-drama games. The vendors were no rubes. Not when they so aptly tapped into the passions of Mariners fans who want to turn the tables on chanting Yankees fans.
A few things for the record here, before proceeding:
The Yankees do not "suck."
The Mariners do not "suck."
The word "suck" stinks.
But the word is definitely not obscene -- and that is part of the Mariners' problem in confronting the backlash against them.
Now these fans who want the freedom to express themselves -- no matter how idiotic they look -- have a bigger, more amorphous foe than the Yankees.
Now the fans have a stadium policy that one University of Washington Law School professor calls "arbitrary."
"And stupid," said Stewart Jay, a Constitutional law expert.
Jay said he might even call the code "unsportsmanlike" if the Mariners resort to banning Safeco Field spectators from wearing, say, the logos of National League teams.
"I think they have a vagueness problem, because the word 'sucks' is certainly not obscene. Short of a pornographic image, there is no basis for restricting what kind of words or insignia can be worn. If it was an entirely private stadium, it would be completely different," Jay said.
As a First Amendment expert, Jay cited the famous Supreme Court case (United States vs. O'Brien, May 27, 1968) in which the court ruled that a man could wear a T-shirt into court that said: "Blank the draft."
The rule of thumb for vulgarity is cover your ears, avert your eyes.
That includes a court of law, one of the most public spaces around -- other than a $517 million publicly owned ballpark.
"The average person would regard Safeco Field as owned by the state. (It is owned by the Public Facilities District and leased to the Mariners.) They wouldn't understand the technical nuance that the Mariners rent it. I think there is serious trouble of exposing themselves to a lawsuit," Jay said.
The Mariners have posted their code of conduct in about 50 places around the stadium. It outlines the parameters of a paying customer's entertainment experience, which the Mariners say is their attempt to hold down boorish behavior:
"Our staff will proactively intervene to support an environment where guests can enjoy the baseball experience free from the following behaviors:
* Foul/abusive language or obscene gestures * Intoxication or other signs of impairment related to alcohol consumption * Displays of affection not appropriate in a public, family setting * Obscene or indecent clothing * Any disruption to the progress of the game by guest's actions or unauthorized persons on the playing field * Guests seated in a location other than their ticketed seat." [...]
One person's obscenity is another person's pleasure. And right.
This column is wrong in so many different ways it's impossible to address them all, so let's just take the easiest. Here's the relevant First Amendment provision :
Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech...
It is obvious on its face that this applies only to government action. The Mariners, even if they are leasing a public ballpark, are a private party and as such not bound by the 1st Amendment. They need not provide either employees or customers with "freedom of speech." If you doubt that this is true, ask yourself if they are similarly required to let customers exercise all their other rights at the ballpark, like bringing guns to their games. Assinine idea, isn't it?
Now it might be the case, as the story hints, that they have created a public forum such that the Bill of Rights could be implicated. Of course, if you want to assert such a claim you have to try to get around the awkward fact that they charge admission and so are, by definition, exclusionary. Rights would be fairly illusory if folks could charge us money to exercise them, wouldn't they?
The legal claim Ms Vecsey is making is utterly absurd. You have a "right" to be a vulgar philistine in public, but not in someone else's private domain; just ask your boss.
But what of the sort of "It's all fun and games" argument and the notion that the Mariners are being humorless. Well, years ago the Dodgers had a gay black outfielder named Glenn Burke. Suppose in this same spirit of vulgar fun the fans in Seattle showed up with t-shirts that said "Lynch the [sexually-oriented expletive][racial epithet]"? Does anyone seriously believe that the Ms Vecseys of the world would be defending these fans' "pleasure", their "right" to be obscene? Considering the reaction to John Rocker's ill-considered comments of several years ago, it seems safe to assume not.
FROM DEBS TO KREBS :America's Ideological Window (review of Gilligan Unbound: Pop Culture in the Age of Globalization By Paul A. Cantor) (Kevin Canfield, 4/29/02, PopPolitics)
Against the backdrop of the Cold War's last act, the proliferation of powerful regional and global organizations (NAFTA, the EU, the WTO), and the increasing reach of multinational corporations, Cantor's book makes an interesting claim. He argues that, more than simply mirroring societal changes, TV, in particular the 8-11 p.m. offerings, provides viewers with "a window into ideological developments in America."
Not a revelation, this, but Cantor does make his share of points.
Dividing the book into four sections -- one each for his examinations of Gilligan's Island; Star Trek; The Simpsons; and The X-Files -- Cantor charts the evolution of American politics and society from the 1960s to the present day. He explains, "I regard this book as an experiment -- to see what happens if we provisionally drop our intellectual prejudices against television and try to learn from it."
This is where Cantor shines -- the portions of the book in which he is unpretentious and loyal to his hypothesis. An English professor at the University of Virginia, he is a perceptive sort who along the way pulls in everything from the Blair Witch Project to LBJ's Great Society. It's the type of book in which Karl Marx and Punky Brewster get equal attention (one mention apiece).
Borrowing a phrase from Austrian novelist Robert Musil, Cantor sees the character at the center of the short-lived (just four seasons) but enduring Gilligan's Island as "the true man without qualities." Unlike his isle-mates, writes Cantor, "Only Gilligan has no distinctive excellence and hence none of the traditional claims to rule. In the democratic utopia of Gilligan's Island, he therefore emerges as the truly representative human being and the chief figure in the community ... He stands as an eternal monument to the great American ideal: 'On any given Sunday, anybody can rule anybody else.'"
Okay, granted, any idiot can govern America--is it really necessary for us to prove it so frequently?
DOES HE COME WITH THE KUNG FU GRIP? :Gen. Washington, Meet Gen X (Jonathan Yardley, April 29, 2002, Washington Post)
Is it to laugh or to cry? George Washington -- First in War, First in Peace, First in the Hearts of His Countrymen -- is now deemed by the custodians of Mount Vernon, the estate he cherished above all places on Earth, to have fallen so far out of popular favor that "an unprecedented $85 million public awareness campaign" is being undertaken "to restore the standing of the first president." The campaign was inaugurated Saturday night with a "gala reception and tented dinner at Mount Vernon for 250 donors," chief among them representatives of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation of Las Vegas (!), which has chipped in $15 million to help Mount Vernon transform the Father of His Country from "a stoic elder statesman" into "the action hero of his times."
These last are the words of Jim Rees, executive director of Mount Vernon, as quoted in a release handed out by the "Press Room" of Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens. "While scholars continue to acknowledge that George Washington's character and leadership were among the best the nation has ever known," Rees said, "many contemporary Americans, unlike previous generations, have lost touch with the real Washington. Our historic campaign intends to reverse that trend and restore Washington to the prominence he deserves."
This will be accomplished by constructing on Mount Vernon's grounds "a new state-of-the-art Orientation Center, Education Center and Museum," 50,000 square feet in all. Not merely will its electronic gizmos put any video arcade's to shame -- "computer imaging, LED map displays, lifelike holograms, dynamic graphics, surround-sound audio programs, 'immersion' videos, illusionist lighting effects, dramatic staging and touch-screen computer monitors" -- but it will feature a "fast-paced" 15-minute film by Steven Spielberg, which "will provide an action-oriented insight into Washington's life story and enable visitors to understand the personality of the real George Washington." As Rees told Jacqueline Trescott of this newspaper, if the film is "as exciting and action-packed as 'Indiana Jones,' we would be thrilled." [...]
[T]he soft hand of sympathy as well as the mailed fist of scorn must be extended to the ladies of Mount Vernon and their hired guns as they try to keep George Washington alive in a world of MTV and Britney Spears. But it is not unreasonable to hope that whatever comes of this "historic campaign" will somehow be less offensive than the rhetoric with which it has been introduced. George Washington was a man of action, but he was no "action hero," and he certainly was not Indiana Jones. He was a great man, if a flawed one, and he accomplished great things. One likes to believe, perhaps foolishly, that the American people are still capable of understanding this, unassisted by the pedagogical ministrations of Steven Spielberg.
Mr. Yardley is more optimistic about the American people than we.
MEANWHILE, OUTSIDE THE NEOCON/LIBERTARIAN ECHO CHAMBER :OFF TO THE RACES : Bush Has Base Support -- But Can He Make Them Vote? (Charlie Cook, April 30, 2002, National Journal)
To read the media accounts these days, President Bush has a real problem within his Republican base. Conservatives have myriad issues with the president, we are told, that could cost Republicans seats in the midterm election and perhaps jeopardize his re-election. That's what we're told, anyway.
But let's look at how Bush is viewed by his fellow party members. Among the 1,587 registered voters interviewed in two Ipsos-Reid/Cook Political Report polls conducted in April were 736 self-described Republicans. Among those Republicans, Bush had an extraordinary 93 percent job approval rating, with just seven percent disapproving. In other words, for every Republican who disapproved of Bush this month, there were 13 who approved.
Of those 736 Republicans, 68 percent said that they strongly approved of the job Bush was doing, while only two percent said that they strongly disapproved of Bush's performance. For every Republican who strongly disapproved of how Bush has done his job, there are 34 who strongly approved. [...]
If anyone can find greater party unity, as measured by job approval ratings, for a president by members of his own party in modern times, then please let me know. These are all numbers that any other recent president would have killed for.
My guess is that Bush's "base problem" hardly extends beyond the combined rolodexes of Paul Weyrich and Bill Kristol -- and maybe only those who are actually in both. (Although on second thought, there would be some John McCain types that wouldn't be on speaking terms with Weyrich.) A more likely "problem" is that there are a very small number of elites with very specific axes to grind.
The far bigger problem faces the Democrats, who have to try to gin up turn-out in their base without alienating friendly voters who approve of Bush even if only as a wartime president. And they have to do something about turnout because Bush is giving the Democrat base plenty of reason not to hate him--tariffs, Campaign Finance and the War--which basically amounts to reason to stay home in November.
Moreover, anything the Dems do to get their base mad at W is likely to get the GOP base just as angry, and self-righteously angry to boot. Recall that when Tom Daschle criticized the way in which the war was being pursued, his remarks were immediately followed by an incident that made him look unpatriotic (though I assume such was not his intent) and he looked ridiculous backing down.
Whose base problem would you rather have, Bush's or McAuliffe's?
NEVER MIND THE THIRD WAY, HOW ABOUT THE FIRST? :Le Pen Filling Void Left By Conservatives (W. James Antle III, April 29, 2002, American Partisan)
[T]there is a message in Le Pen's strong showing for conservatives... Major parties on the right throughout the Western world have largely ignored "the national question" and have thus created the void for rightist-nationalist parties to fill. Bulwarks of conservative journalism like The Wall Street Journal editorialize in favor of obliterating national borders while longtime editor Robert Bartley is said to have asserted that the "nation-state is finished." (Bartley has since denied the quote attributed to him by financial
journalist Peter Brimelow.) Yet the national question is shaping up to be the quintessential political issue for authentic conservatives in the 21st century. [...]
The French political elite is transforming their country without the consent of their countrymen. National sovereignty is increasingly being surrendered to anonymous bureaucrats in Brussels as France is consumed by the European Union. Mass immigration from cultures wildly different from the West is accepted without any assimilation. France is in the midst of a crime wave disproportionately committed by immigrants and their children. If the Socialists, then under the leadership of the late President Francois Mitterand, pushed through the Maastricht treaty and promoted unwise immigration policies, Chirac's conservatives have not governed much differently on these matters.
Thus, the recent election results should be understood in the context of mass immigration, crime and the growing officiousness of the European Union. It was mainly voters rebelling against these trends who gave Le Pen 17.5 percent of the vote to Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's 16.3 percent and Chirac's 19.8 percent. Those who dismiss these results as a product of low turnout are deluding themselves. A substantial 72 percent of French voters still went to the polls (far greater than the proportion of American voters who turned out in the elections that gave us Bill Clinton) and Le Pen came close to his present vote totals (15.2 percent in 1995, 14.4 percent in 1988) in past elections where voter turnout was greater. Moreover, in this election Le Pen's longtime associate Bruno Megret ran as the candidate of a rival party and took 3 percent himself.
It isn't fascism to seek to preserve the cultural traditions and political self-determination of one's own nation. Nor does one have to be anti-immigrant to question whether unfettered immigration without assimilation is in a nation's best interest. Some of the most vocal critics of the United States' post-1965 immigration policy have been immigrants and their descendants themselves. (Of course, native-born critics of open borders are denounced as xenophobic nativists while immigrants who question porous borders are labeled hypocrites.) But immigrants personally and immigration in principle shouldn't be confused with how immigration policy is being conducted in practice.
Opposition to immigration polices that import social strife and to supranational organizations that compromise national sovereignty shouldn't be ceded to people like Le Pen and Jorge Haider, yet it is now virtually impossible to find an Enoch Powell. The responsible right wants nothing to do with issues like immigration and national sovereignty because they are afraid of being called names, like racist and isolationist.
Their cowardice is all the more inexcusable when it becomes apparent that their fear of being labeled bigots creates political opportunities for those who actually
So long as the emphasis is placed on assimilation--with all that means in terms of asserting Western cultural superiority--this sounds right (Right?). What I still don't get is why even those countries most like us--Britain & Canada--no longer have conservative parties. Given a choice between a Le Pen-type, nativist party or the Tories, I'd be hard pressed to justify voting Tory. Nor does trying to cast themselves as a more moderate (less Thatcherite) party seem to have helped the Tories any at the polls. Why not do what Thatcher & Powell & company did in the mid-70s and reinvent themselves as true conservatives?
MUST SEE TV :TV REVIEW : 'WHEN THE TOWERS FELL' : A Detective-Story Approach to the Twin Towers' Collapse (JULIE SALAMON, April 30, 2002, NY Times)
The image seems familiar: investigators poking around a junkyard looking for clues to a crime. A horrendous crime has in fact been committed, but these men are engineers, not detectives. By examining steel beams taken from rubble, they are trying to figure out if the way the World Trade Center was built made the tragedy there worse than it might have been. The engineering post-mortem feels urgent as plans for the reconstruction of the area are being developed. Tonight on "Why the Towers Fell," PBS's "Nova" series gives a lucid and compelling account of the investigation conducted by the American Society of Civil Engineers, whose report is scheduled for release today by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
NAFTA NOW! :EU leader attacks Britain over links with United States (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard and George Jones, 30/04/2002, Daily Telegraph)
"I wonder what makes this great nation so confident when dealing with a vastly more powerful nation over 3,000 miles away, but afraid to play a full part in shaping the future of the continent to which it belongs," [Romano Prodi, the president of the European Commission] told the Said Business School in Oxford.
Mr. Prodi dismissed suggestions that Britain's "special relationship" with the US gave it extra leverage in the world.
Afraid? What the heck is Mr. Prodi talking about? Don't Britain's links to America represent a realistic understanding that we are the final guarantor of their freedom (making their battles our own in WWI, WWII, and the Cold War) and never ask anything of them in return?
It's long past time for Britain to bail out of the EU, recognize that it is much more a part of the Anglosphere than of Europe, and join NAFTA.
SAINTLINESS :Lies of the Cardinals (GARRY WILLS, April 28, 2002, NY Times)
In the year 425, a scandal rocked the African diocese of Bishop Augustine ó now known as St. Augustine. A priest in the community attached to the cathedral died and left his personal property to Augustine. A grieving Augustine went before his congregation to say why he felt that he could not accept the bequest. That priest, like others who had entered that community (and like Augustine himself), had sworn to divest himself of all personal property. To take the property would make the community dedicated to the truth of the Gospel a partner in a deceitful transaction.
Augustine said that he would set up a special board, including "loyal and respected brothers from your number, from you, the community," to decide on a division of the property among members of the priest's family. But that was not enough. If one man had broken his vow, why should people not suspect that others might also be doing so? The reputation of the priesthood was at stake: "Neglecting reputation is a way of being cruel to others," Augustine wrote, "especially in a church position such as ours, about which the Apostle Paul wrote to his followers: `Present to everyone a pattern for doing good works.' "
Augustine did not protect his priests' reputations by covering up any possible offense, but by openly investigating all of his priests, with a promise that audits of their finances would be publicly delivered at Mass. He reported on each case singly. After finding that some priests still had joint holdings with family members, he insisted that these be instantly renounced. Immediate and public divestiture was the condition of their remaining in the community.
Then Augustine issued a warning, saying that any priest found holding property in the future would be instantly expelled: "I will not let him divest himself of it and stay, but I will delete his name from the clerics' register. Though he should appeal from me to a thousand councils, or sail to any other arbiter wherever--anywhere he can--yet, so help me God, he shall not be a cleric so long as I am a bishop. You hear me. They hear me."
Saints, who one might think we would treasure during their lives, instead tend to terrify us, precisely because of the impossible example they set us. It seems safe to say that Pope John Paul II will be sainted one day, but this is not his finest hour. He might want to consider the example of Saint Augustine, however difficult a standard he set.
MONKEY BUSINESS :Will chimps make chumps of us in court? : Comes now, plaintiff Bonzo, in the matter of Bonzo v. Researchers (SOLVEIG TORVIK, April 30, 2002, SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER)
[N]one other than the esteemed constitutional lawyer Laurence Tribe has stood up more or less foursquare for granting chimps legal rights to sue in their own names and petition courts to protect their interests. The chimps would get a court-appointed guardian ad litem. [...]
"The whole status of animals as things is what needs to be rethought," Tribe told The Wall Street Journal. "Non-human animals certainly can be given (legal) standing." He contends, for example, that nothing in the Constitution says that the 13th Amendment forbidding slavery applies only to humans.
You'd think Mr. Tribe might reconsider his opposition to extending legal standing to humans before he moves on to monkeys. Here's a question for you : will these primates eventually be entitled to the same organ transplants, harvested from not-quite human beings, that the clonophiles imagine for the rest of us?
SETTING THE FOX TO INVESTIGATE THE HENS :Israel is right to suspect UN inquiry at Jenin may lead to kangaroo court (Tom Cooney, 4/30/02, Irish Times)
IT SUITS the UN to blame Israel in order to deflect attention from its own culpability in being an accomplice to Palestinian terrorism. The UN has responsibility for providing relief and social services to the Jenin camp. It allowed the camp to become the centre for suicide bombers. The terrorists use young people as bombers in violation of Article 38 of the UN Convention on Children's Rights. Yet neither Terje Larsen nor Peter Hansen spoke out.
The UN Human Rights Commission has failed to make the Palestinain Authority answerable for this abuse. Under the very eyes of the UN, Jenin became a terrorist military base, and jeopardised its status as a refugee camp. This quietism is complicity. It's not surprising, then, that the UN would fund a Palestinian map on which Israel does not exist.
The UN's title to be Israel's judge is questionable. The UN's complicity with Palestinian terrorism means that it is acting as a judge in its own cause. Its malice towards Israel is incompatible with the qualities an impartial fact-finder requires.
The UN has given the Palestinian Authority its apologia for its vicious campaign of terror against Israel. It has done this by distorting international legal principle to promote the notion that Israel is an occupying power in Palestinian territory. This enables Arafat's apologists (including those European states who allowed Europe's own Jewish civilisation to be liquidated) to assert that Israel's presence on the West Bank and Gaza is an offshoot of a desire to exert colonial power over Palestinian people.
This assertion is false. Israel's presence in those lands is the outcome of the 1967 war in which several Arab states set out to liquidate Israel and its people. Israel
entered those areas lawfully in self-defence. Consider the West Bank area. Jordan occupied it from 1948 to 1967 as the outcome of an unlawful invasion. It acquired no title to the lands. When Jordan attacked Israel in 1967, Israel drove Jordan out of the West Bank and took control of the area. Under international law, Israel is entitled to hold those lands so long as the dictates of self-defence require.
Israel is entitled not to withdraw from the lands until proper measures are set in train to ensure that the area will not be used as a base to use force against it.
One fondly recalls the days when conservatives were viewed as cranks for believing the U.S. should get out of the U. N.; who now disagrees?
COULD IT BE WE'RE FALLING IN LOVE...:Rice Says Chavez Weakened Democracy (TOM RAUM, Apr 29, 2002, Associated Press)
"The threat to democracy in Venezuela didn't begin with those people in the streets," Rice told a foreign-policy forum. "We have to remember that Chavez also, in shutting down the press, for instance, was doing things to harm Venezuela democracy long before that fateful outcome."
Chavez was ousted on April 12 by dissident generals. But the government headed by Pedro Carmona, the businessman who replaced Chavez, crumbled after Carmona dissolved Venezuela's Congress and other democratic institutions, and Chavez was back in power two days after the coup. U.S. officials have been criticized across Latin America for failing to condemn the plot strongly.
Just because Chavez was elected doesn't mean he exhibited democratic values, Rice said. "We cannot fall into that trap," she said.
This is the most perceptive comment on Latin American politics by an American official since : Dictatorships and Double Standards : Rationalism and Reason in Politics (1982) (Jeane J. Kirkpatrick 1926- ) (Grade: A)
IF IT AIN'T BROKE... :Dear Dubya : FP asks one of America¹s most seasoned former diplomats to rate Bush's foreign policy. (Morton Abramowitz, May/June 2002, Foreign Policy)
Dear Mr. President: Since you and Secretary of State Colin Powell have not shown a great deal of interest in providing the United States and the world with a reasonably comprehensive statement on foreign policy that transcends the issue of counterterrorism, allow me to offer some help. First of all, after a somewhat rocky start, your achievements on the foreign policy front have been quite impressive post-September 11...
Allow me to paraphrase : our foreign policy has been successful precisely because President Bush has been acting unilaterally and not behaving like a diplomat, but here's how a dimplomat would do it instead.
April 29, 2002
FROM THE ASH HEAP TO THE TRASH CAN :Trashcanistan : A TOUR THROUGH THE WRECKAGE OF THE SOVIET EMPIRE. (Stephen Kotkin, 04.04.02, New Republic)
The Soviet Union was congenitally illiberal, plagued with divide-and-rule malignancies and guilty of crimes that few other states could rival; but the post-Soviet Union has been, for most ordinary people, one step forward and two steps back. The Soviet empire's crack-up was not an overseas decolonization. Seventy million people (one in four) resided outside their national "homeland," if they had one at all; and countless families woke up to find that their relatives, and sometimes their own children, lived not some distance away but abroad, making separation permanent unless one pulled off a tricky apartment barter with others who were similarly blindsided, or gave up everything to start over as an immigrant.
Economic interdependence meant that even potentially profitable enterprises nose-dived when they were suddenly cut off from suppliers and customers in what became foreign countries, with different currencies and convoluted rules, or non-rules, for foreign exchange. Politically, independence has often resulted in still more arbitrary rule. When the Soviet Union was dissolved, it was replaced by ... the Soviet Union, only with more border guards, more customs posts, more "tax" collectors, more state "inspectors"-in short, more greasy palms outstretched. Estonia stands out as the great bright spot (approaching the level of Slovenia, the star in East-Central Europe). But elsewhere around the former Soviet Union, we see a dreadful checkerboard of parasitic states and statelets, government-led extortion rackets and gangs in power, mass refugee camps, and shadow economies. Welcome to Trashcanistan.
Let us be clear. Readers should look elsewhere for yet another wrongheaded slam of the market. What brought about today's widespread poverty was not "reform," but the near complete absence of the neo-liberal reforms, and behind that the long-drawn-out planned economy, which in addition to a non-market incentive structure and corruption produced powerful social constituencies and other facts on the ground that were utterly inimical to reform. But another cause of the ongoing misery, I think, is the idolatry of "national" self-determination-usually attributed to Wilson, but equally attributable to Lenin-which continues to wreak havoc across the globe, as it did throughout the Cold War.
Although each case for a nation-state may appear just, and although those who have already achieved statehood may seem in no position to deny the same to others, "national" self-determination is too often a recipe for Trashcanistan-for systemic malfeasance and economic involution, with convenient cover for the worst political scoundrels and their legions of apologists ("Sure it is a criminal regime, but it is our criminal regime"). By contrast, self-government within an existing entity-or, better yet, an enlarged entity-where citizenship trumps ethnicity constitutes an altogether different proposition, especially when borders are open and markets are greatly broadened. What the European Union has been struggling mightily to transcend, the newly independent states of the dismembered Soviet Union have inflicted upon themselves.
The ironies here are exceptionally rich, for among the many causes of the Soviet state's demise, the most widely cited-I mean nationalism-was one of the least salient. If deep-seated nationalism brought down the multinational Soviet Union, as the analytical herd asserts, then what accounts for the profound post-1991 weakness of the nations and the nationalisms in almost all the successor states? A part of the answer is that they, too, are multinational. And equally important, of course, was the circumstance that when the Communist Party, which alone held the federal union together, underwent "reform" and disintegrated, the Soviet Union's internal Leninist nation-states became perfect vehicles for elite self-preservation and self-aggrandizement.
Consider further that despite the analysts' long-standing repudiation of the existence of a "Soviet nation," something funny confronts a traveler crisscrossing the former empire today: he encounters Sovietness at almost every turn. (Analysts had scoffed at the notion of a genuine East German identity, too, until post-reunification showed otherwise.) What should have been apparent from the Russian-speaking Jews who left the Soviet Union for Brighton Beach-transporting and freezing a 1970s moment of Soviet culture-is no less clear from today's Russian-speaking populations in most of the newly independent states, as well as the self-declared additional Trashcanistans within them: the various post-Soviet nations emerged deeply Soviet.
This contentious but fascinating review essay takes a look at the states of the former Soviet Union from the perspective of several new books on the region. Mr. Kotkin paints a pretty dismal picture of newborn nations plagued by corruption, violence, and chaos, with only a few relatively bright spots, including Russia itself. What's most interesting here is the conclusion he reaches : "Self-determination needs to be reconceived in terms of effective self-government." This somewhat anti-democratic lesson has been an awfully difficult one for us to learn, but you can't read Mr. Kotkin's long piece and remain sanguine about the prospects of places like China, Africa, and the Middle East if we continue to insist that every people have to have an opportunity for self-determination. Especially since, as Mr. Kotkin specifically points out, America, in some ways the most successful empire of all time, has succeeded precisely by subsuming various nationalities within one nation.
WHAT WE HAVE HERE, IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE :USA, republic of letters : Communication in the newly United States (a review of A IS FOR AMERICAN : Letters and other characters in the newly United States by Jill Lepore) (Hugh Kenner, 4/25/02, Times Literary Supplement)
Americans still say "Look it up in Webster", alluding to a man who devoted his long life (1758-1843) to reorganizing the "English" people spoke and wrote in a country that had just severed its ties with England. There hadbeen other proposals for a national language, for instance Hebrew, both to distance Yanks from Britain and to signal them as a chosen people. French and Greek were also considered. But what Noah Webster proposed was simply to teach all Americans to spell and speak alike, yet differently in detail from the people of England. The result would be an "American language, to become over the years as different from the future language of England, as the modern Dutch, Danish and Swedish are from the German, or from one another".
But American regional pronunciations differed, hence Virginian contempt for the New Englanders who "talked funny". That had to be rendered uniform. And pronunciation, Webster thought, tended to follow spelling. So the key to unifying America's future would be a Spelling Book. Webster went to work on that.
And it sold, and sold, and sold. Every household, it seemed, required one. On the eve of the Civil War, Jefferson Davis, future President of the Confederacy, declaring how "Above all other people we are one", added that "above all books which have united us in the bond of common language, I place the good old spelling-book of Noah Webster."
It was after 1828 that "looking it up in Webster" came into vogue. In that year Webster published his monumental American Dictionary of the English Language , in which the entry for "Barbarous" commences, "Uncivilized; savage, unlettered . . .". Two Webster books therefore, their themes Spelling and Meaning. So American kids started their education poring over long lists of words, and the Spelling-Bee is still an American custom. Then, after mastering many hundreds of disconnected words, kids are ready to learn to read. That's when they graduate from the Speller to the Dictionary.
There's something to be said for a community in which people all speak the same language and educate their kids from the same books. Bring back the McGuffey Reader.
THE OTHER CLINTON :Weapon Against Rape (BOB HERBERT, April 29, 2002, NY Times)
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is joining the growing effort to get rid of the backlog of DNA samples that could be used to track and convict rapists but instead are sitting useless on shelves in law enforcement offices across the country.
Senator Clinton has introduced legislation that would provide federal money to help pay for the analysis of DNA samples in as many as 500,000 packages of evidence commonly known as rape kits.
What are the odds that a story about rape, DNA samples and a Clinton would be about her and not him?
WATCH THE SKIES :Our astronomy and jazz correspondent, Glenn Dryfoos, informs us : Right now, at sun down, all 5 visible planets can be seen, stretched in a long line from Mercury (in the glow of sunset, slightly north of due west) up to Jupiter (high in the western sky, slightly south of due east)...and, of course, you can also see a sixth planet...Earth...
Here's a picture that shows you what to look for....when you move your cursor on the picture, it labels the planets and other visible sights.
NOW CAN WE CALL IT AN AXIS ? :Unlikely Allies Bound by a Common Hatred : Neo-Nazis Find They Share Views of Militant Muslim Groups on U.S., Israel (Peter Finn, April 29, 2002, Washington Post)
Authorities in the United States and Europe are skeptical of an enduring alliance. "It's an unnatural bond," said an FBI official in Washington. A German official
offered a similar assessment: "I don't see it. They both hate the Jews, but in the end, they also dislike each other."
The outlines of cooperation were visible before Sept. 11. In 1991, German neo-Nazis tried to form a "Condor Legion" to fight alongside Iraqis against the U.S.-led international coalition. More recently, members of the European far right have journeyed to Baghdad to express solidarity with President Saddam Hussein.
In late 1997, a German neo-Nazi and convert to Islam, Steven Smyrek, who allegedly trained at an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan, was arrested in Israel for planning a suicide attack, according to the Duisburg center.
Also that year, a Holocaust denial conference planned for Beirut would have brought together Pierce, Mahler of Germany's National Democratic Party, who planned to speak on "The Final Solution to the Jewish Question," and representatives of Hezbollah and other radical Muslim groups. The conference was canceled by Lebanon's government.
According to Huber, some Nazi veterans also feel common cause with Islamic militants.
By his account, a group of aging SS officers and members of Hitler's personal guard who meet every few weeks in the German state of Bavaria for beer and conversation recently bestowed the title "honorary Prussian" on bin Laden. They praised his "valiant fight" against the United States, Huber said.
I must have missed the part where Mr. Finn explains why they're "unlikely allies". They're both hate groups and they hate the same people. Sure they hate each other, but for that matter they hate themselves--that's why they blow themselves up. Besides, there's plenty of time to settle each others' hash after Helter Skelter comes.
BOBBY BRADY'S REVENGE :Firstborn Children at Higher Risk of Heart Disease (Reuters, Apr 26, 2002)
Italian researchers report that firstborn children have a higher risk of heart disease and a higher risk of cardiovascular death than their siblings. Dr. Maurizio Ferratini of the Fondazione Don Carlo Gnocchi in Milan presented his team's findings Wednesday at the American Heart Association's Asia Pacific Scientific Forum in Honolulu, Hawaii. In the study of 348 coronary heart disease patients admitted to their institution during a 30-month period, nearly half (46.7%) of the patients were firstborn, Ferratini reported. In contrast, about 29.3% of the population of Italy in general are firstborn, as opposed to being somewhere else in the sibling lineup. [...]
"We know that firstborns are different from their siblings in health, behavior, psychology, school achievement and personality," Ferratini said. "These differences may influence other health factors.... For example, more firstborn have type A personalities...this may influence risk of heart disease."
The other (and younger) Brother showed inordinate glee in forwarding this story.
NEITHER A WILSON NOR A HAMILTON BE :Santayana Syndrome (a review of Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World by Walter Russell Mead) (James P. Rubin, 03.26.02, New Republic)
Mead's approach is to offer an even-handed analysis of the emergence and the endurance of what he calls Jeffersonian, Hamiltonian, Jacksonian, and Wilsonian foreign policies. If nothing else, his account serves two important purposes. It debunks the myth of an America in eternal pursuit of "virtuous isolation," and it explains why the ideas and practices of "realism," the diplomacy commonly associated with Talleyrand, Bismarck, and Metternich, among others, have enjoyed so little appeal in America. [...]
He begin with the Hamiltonians. This school is built on the conviction of the primacy of international economics. To ensure America's independence and prosperity in its early years, the United States had to protect the freedom of the seas, open the door for our exports around the world, and prevent any other power from challenging these principles. [...]
Jefferson's school, according to Mead, was (and is: again, Mead believes that these types persist to this day) concerned mainly with protecting American democracy against the dangers of executive power and limiting the costs and the risks of whatever foreign policies were necessary to protect our independence. Idealism at home, realism abroad: this was the Jeffersonian motto.
The Jeffersonians, beginning with Jefferson, feared that Hamiltonian engagement abroad would lead to a standing army and navy, and new powers for the president, and a weaker congressional oversight role, and a greater degree of secrecy in government. When the Hamiltonians looked around the world, they saw opportunity. The Jeffersonians saw danger. They were the early deficit hawks, believing that wars or conflicts abroad aimed at opening markets would increase the national debt, and benefit mainly the bankers, and oppress the citizenry with higher taxes. Eisenhower's concern about the rise of a military-industrial complex was a supremely Jeffersonian concern.
As to the morality of foreign affairs, Jeffersonians had their hearts in the right place. They did see the United States as a "city on the hill." But they did not believe that America should promote freedom and prosperity by exporting our way of doing things. Instead the United States was to teach its values and its successes by example. John Quincy Adams expressed this view definitively when he remarked that the United States "goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own."[...]
The Wilsonian grand strategy became clear during the extraordinary debate over the League of Nations. It was this modern American school of thought about international affairs that was the first to argue what is accepted wisdom today: that democracies make better, more reliable, and more predictable partners than dictatorships. Like the Jeffersonians, the Wilsonians believed that monarchies and dictators did not reflect the enduring national interests of their countries, but were the egregious causes of needless wars provoked by petty personal quarrels and wild policy swings when governments fell.
This notion of democratization as a goal of foreign policy led to the Wilsonians' most important contribution. In seeking to make the world "safe for democracy," they placed the United States on the right side of history as democratic change and independence slowly and fitfully swept across the globe. While Hamiltonians and Wilsonians broadly agreed on issues such as anti-colonialism and a stable world order, it was Wilson who promoted Jefferson's declaration of independence, with its ringing articulation of the natural rights of man, into a document of American foreign policy, and made the promotion of those same rights into a guiding principle of American actions abroad. [...]
The Jacksonians, in Mead's account, arose out of the frontier and the folk culture that Andrew Jackson most perfectly and noisily represented. This view of American foreign policy remains most popular in the Southwest, the Deep South, and parts of the Midwest, where the frontier experience was crucial to the development of local politics. The Jacksonians are the warriors of American society. While they prefer to avoid conflict with the rest of the world and often rail at the complications of economic engagement, they believe that if war comes we should deploy all our power in ruthless pursuit of total victory. The Japanese admiral who was said to describe the United States as a "sleeping giant" was referring to America in its Jacksonian mood, a country slow to anger but fearsome in anger.
The Jacksonians, as Mead describes them, are somewhat uncomfortable with representative government. They prefer a populist, Perot-style democracy at home and simple solutions abroad. They are protectionist in opposition to the global trade strategies of the Hamiltonians, and highly critical of the complexities in the patient diplomacy of the Jeffersonians, and contemptuous of the Wilsonians for the naivete of their attempt to promote democratic values abroad. For obvious reasons, this is the American school that Europeans least understand, the American taste for effective action that they regard as crude cowboy diplomacy.
Mead rightly points out that it is this school that provides the political support for the high levels of spending that have made our military so successful. And it is the Jacksonians who are prepared to make the sacrifices in blood and treasure to achieve victory when war breaks out. They are decidedly not isolationist. While they may have a limited view of America's global interests, they are prepared to act--and act decisively--if those interests are threatened. Whether it is in defense of the lives of American citizens and missionaries abroad or the right of continental expansion, or in response to the sinking of American ships in World War I and Pearl Harbor or the loss of vital oil in the Persian Gulf, the Jacksonian impulse has made America's military supreme and our rise to global power possible.
The wife saw Mr. Mead on FOX News the other night and was very impressed. Although the titles of the classifications are discomfiting , I'd tend (as I suspect would most conservatives) to be a Jeffersonian (basically an isolationist) until we're challenged by an enemy and then a Jacksonian (a unilateralist).
Certainly, the most counterproductive and dangerous of these philosophies has been Wilsonianism, which has created instability and exacerbated ethnic violence by laying the intellectual groundwork for demands of self-governance by every single ethnic group across the globe. The disintegration of Yugoslavia into warring tribes represents the bloody realization of Wilsonian ideals and amply indicts such idealism.
Hamiltonianism is just too expensive and ultimately unnecessary. In war after war (Civil War and WWII in particular) we've demonstrated how easy it is for us to catch up to "better prepared" enemies. In fact, it's arguably the case that our relative unpreparedness has been a boon, because we approach armaments manufacture with fresh and innovative minds and tend not to be locked into set ways of doing things.
At any rate, the book sounds interesting. Hopefully, Brian Lamb will snag Mr. Mead for Booknotes.
BUILDING COMMUNITY THROUGH RITUAL :From Weddings to Football, the Value of Communal Activities (VIRGINIA POSTREL, April 25, 2002, NY Times)
What do weddings, the Super Bowl, presidential inaugurations, graduation ceremonies and political rallies like those that took place in Washington last week have in common?
They're all communal activities, with lots of emotional and symbolic content. But they can also serve a rational purpose, argues Michael Suk-Young Chwe, an economist in the political science department at the University of California at Los Angeles.
These activities help solve "coordination problems," in which taking action requires knowing that other people know what you know and that you know that they know that you know.
When a president is inaugurated, for instance, the content of the ceremony itself is important, but not as important as the fact that everyone present or watching on television knows everyone else is seeing the same inauguration. Everyone knows who the president is, and knows that everyone else also knows. That common knowledge is essential to the legitimacy of the office.
"I am more likely to support an authority or social system, either existing or insurgent, the more others support it," Professor Chwe writes in "Rational Ritual" (Princeton University Press, 2001). "Public rituals, rallies and ceremonies generate the necessary common knowledge. A public ritual is not just about the transmission of meaning from a central source to each member of an audience; it is also about letting audience members know what other audience members know."
It's for reasons like these that it seems like it would be useful to have more public ceremonies--specifically things like : the Pledge of Allegiance and prayer in schools; some kind of large public celebration of the 4th of July; annual political party conventions (as the British have); etc.--events and rituals in which we would not merely be relating to a central authority but coming together as a community, sharing common beliefs.
HEAR ME ROAR :Threads of History : a review of The Age of Homespun: Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (Alan Taylor, 03.01.02, New Republic)
Necessity being the mother of scholarly invention, women's historians have proved especially resourceful and ingenious at teasing meanings from stray
references in the records of civil, criminal, and probate courts. Among these adept scholars, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich especially stands out. Ulrich raised a family before turning in midlife to pursue graduate study at a relatively small public university during the late 1970s, and she courageously devoted her dissertation to a topic then doubly damned by conventional scholarly wisdom as trivial: colonial women in northern New England. Surely only someone consigned to academic marginality would investigate marginal people dwelling in marginal places--rather than, say, men in Massachusetts or Virginia. Her early career, in sum, was a path that never before led to the Harvard faculty, to which she now belongs.
But sheer ability is sometimes a stubborn thing. An astute editor at a prestigious publishing house snapped up Ulrich's dissertation, recognizing its literary qualities and its timely contribution to the emerging interest in early American women. When it was published in 1982, Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750 exemplified a distinctive and authentic new voice in historical scholarship. Trained in the then-prevailing "New Social History," Ulrich dutifully plunged into the court cases and probate inventories of local records to document the lives of common women. But she broke with the social science model that turned statistical averages into bland types, an approach that Ulrich characterizes as "freezing people into a collective anonymity that denies either agency or the capacity to change."
Instead, in obscure records she found vivid stories that illuminated the lives led by so-called "common" people. Determined to evoke the past as well as to analyze it, Ulrich offered "an extended description constructed from a series of vignettes." And she found drama where no one else had bothered to look, presenting "much about housekeeping, childbearing, and ordinary churchgoing, about small conflicts experienced by forgotten women, and about little triumphs that history has not recorded." Although attentive to scholarly questions--such as whether colonial women were losing or gaining in status--Ulrich primarily sought to recover what mattered to past women: "the magnification of motherhood, the idealization of conjugal love, and the elevation of female religiosity." With a humane imagination and a keen eye for telling details, Ulrich enabled readers to feel a sense of connection to kindred people dwelling in the alien culture of a distant time, bringing into focus a surprisingly coherent and forceful picture of colonial life.
Eight years later, in 1990, Ulrich published a still more eloquent, moving, and important book, A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812. As in her first book, she took on a risky subject rejected by more conventional historians: the life of an obscure woman from central Maine who left a long but repetitive and cryptic diary. Full of daily chores and transactions but thin on observation, the diary seemed dry, dull, and trivial to the few historians who bothered to examine its cramped handwriting. Through innovative and exhaustive research in local records, Ulrich reconstituted Martha Ballard's familial, social, and economic relationships with hundreds of neighbors--children, women, and men--to restore the rich meanings implicit in the diary's terse entries.
Recast as an "earnest, steady, gentle, and courageous record," the diary revealed the long-lost life of a country village in the early republic. Ballard's diary helped Ulrich to uncover the vibrant female networks for exchanging labor and making household produce, including homespun cloth. Eighteenth-century women re-appeared as earthy, vibrant, and essential, and no longer as the passive dependents of stereotype. In a vivid and telling metaphor, Ulrich likened the social interplay of men and women to cloth:
"Think of the white threads as women's activities, the blue as men's, then imagine the resulting social web. Clearly, some activities in an eighteenth-century town brought men and women together. Others defined their separateness." No historian has done more to recover a detailed sense of the past from so many disparate scraps of apparently opaque evidence.
Striking as literature and as research, A Midwife's Tale presents Ulrich's findings in a lyrical prose attentive to a reader's imagination. By focusing each chapter on a particularly difficult but implicitly rich passage, Ulrich drew her readers into the challenges and the rewards of historical research as detective work. She then constructed tight and compelling descriptions of action and place in a distant time and culture, rendering tangible the differentness of the early republic. And yet Ulrich also treats her subjects with empathy, rendering them understandable as fellow humans in their abilities and limits, their joys and sorrows. While feeling the alienation of time, readers of her book also garner a sense of kinship with the people who lived in the distant past. No book in recent memory has better combined the respect of fellow scholars with the affection of general readers.
One of the central conceits of feminism is that women up until modern times must have been content to lead lives of powerlessness and despair, completely subjugating themselves to the whims of their husbands, fathers, and sons. Take a look at your grandmothers, your Mom, your wife, your sister, your daughter...and ask yourself what the likelihood is that, even in a patriarchal society, they would have led lives of utter emptiness, devoid of any meaning, with no influence on the world around them. Not very likely, is it?
VASTER AND MORE WASTED LAND :FCC chairman: Consolidation hasn't inhibited variety, fairness (Mark Jurkowitz, 4/17/2002, Boston Globe)
Discussing concerns that the proliferation of media giants can stifle the diversity of ideas, [Michael] Powell said, ''What really is the Disney [or Rupert Murdoch] viewpoint that comes through on their programming? The `Citizen Kane' anxiety ... could be genuine in some instances. But it is very difficult to discern what exactly are these viewpoints that are eking through that we're worried about. ... I think to the average consumer this is too sublime a concept for a lot of them to be agitated by.''
''The one point that is probably a fair criticism is that their viewpoint is to make money,'' he added. ''And I'm not so sure that their personal political interests are ever permitted by the board of directors or Wall Street to trump anything that would maximize value.
''The old-time newspaper guy who might have sacrificed some profit to take a sharp viewpoint is certainly something that gets washed down in corporate America because the common denominator is the dollar. ... I think that leads to the biggest problem with televison being blandness, not bias.''
We do still own the airwaves, right? Why not require these people to do some more public service stuff, especially political and civic event coverage? And how about a sex, violence, and profanity code? If the public owns the airwaves, let's make sure they serve the public interest.
GIVING UNICULTURALISM A BAD NAME :The Ugly Europeans : Jean-Marie Le Pen, Jörg Haider, and other xenophobes. (Chris Suellentrop, April 26, 2002, Slate)
Much of what the Ugly Europeans propose isn't out of the mainstream of American political debate: Get tough on crime, promote Christian family values, reform the welfare state, curtail immigration. But the Ugly Europeans' policy inclinations on all those issues stem not from political ideology but from prejudice. How to get tough on crime? Get rid of the Muslim immigrants who are causing it. Why reform the welfare state? Because the Muslims are sucking us dry. Why promote Christian values? Because the Muslim invaders threaten to drown out our faith. Why curtail immigration? Because Muslims cannot assimilate into Western European cultures.
The Ugly European viewpoint stems from an exclusionary ethnocentric nationalism, summed up by Le Pen's slogan "France for the French," Haider's slogan "Austria for the Austrians," and Vlaams Blok's slogan "Our Own People First." Muslims from North Africa cannot assimilate even if they want to. Pia Kjaersgaard, the housewife leader of the Danish People's Party, wants the Muslims in Denmark to "go home": "They must not be allowed to integrate into Danish society." Filip Dewinter of Belgium's Vlaams Blok agrees: "We must stop the Islamic invasion," he told the New York Times Magazine. "I think it's, in fact, impossible to assimilate in our country if you are of Islamic belief." During a protest of a plan to open a center for foreign asylum-seekers in his hometown of Antwerp, Dewinter proclaimed, "Antwerp is not a garbage can." In an effort to prevent Muslim (and perhaps Jewish) assimilation in France, the mayor of Marignane, who is a member of Le Pen's National Front, eliminated the option for a non-pork lunch when pork was on the menu at public school cafeterias. The clear message: We don't want your children to eat with our children.
Ugly Europeans are adamantly opposed to multicultural, multiethnic societies, and they employ a neat rhetorical trick: framing their racist anti-Muslim sentiment as a defense of the multicultural value of diversity--a way to protect their own national culture, which they see as threatened. (The Netherlands' Fortuyn, in a similar bit of ideological gymnastics, justifies his intolerance for Muslims by saying that Muslims threaten the Netherlands' vaunted reputation for tolerance.) They're fiercely opposed to the European Union, which they see as leveling the distinctions among the Continent's distinct nations. And most assail America for its globalizing culture and its multiethnic society.
In this, ironically, the Ugly Europeans share more than a little in common with the Islamic extremism that has propelled them to new heights of popularity. They may not be terrorists and murderers, but their separatist agenda is familiar: a belief that Christians and Muslims cannot commingle; that the infidel invaders must be expelled to ensure their countries' self-preservation; and a backward-looking celebration of an empire long, long gone.
Though much better than many of the recent commentaries on the Le Pen phenomenon, Mr. Suellentrop gets a tad confused here. On the one hand he's suggesting that the problem with these xenophobic parties is that they don't want to integrate Muslims into their own Western European cultures. On the other, he's saying that their problem is that they are separatists. Well, multiculturalism is separatism. Go look around a college campus--where the multicultural ream has been most fully realized--and you'll see a society that has thoroughly stratified along ethnic/racial/religious lines, with separate dining halls and tables for Muslims, vegans, Orthodox Jews, blacks, etc.. It seems like we can have one or the other--integration into our culture or multiculturalism--but not both.
Mr. Suellentrop compounds his problem when he notes that the separatism that these parties espouse is similar to the separatism that defines Islamic culture today. If accurate, and I think it may be, this Islamic separatism would tend to make it extremely difficult (though hopefully not impossible) to integrate Muslims fully into Western culture and would tend to give credence to Le Pen's argument. And if Western elites continue to champion multiculturalism it may, at some point, become necessary for those of us who believe in Western culture to vindicate it, even within Western nations.
Assimilation isn't a one way street, imposing on natives the obligation to try to assimilate immigrants, but placing no burden upon the new-comer to try to conform to the new culture he's chosen. It seems fair enough to ask that those who wish to benefit from our culture in turn adopt it as their own.
April 28, 2002
WHAT A PIECE OF WORK :Teacher stopped crazed gunman (News Interactive, 28apr02)
THE hero of the tragic shooting at a high school in eastern Germany told today how his pupil suddenly stopped the killing spree after gunning 16 people down.
"After hearing some shots, I was busy arranging the evacuation of pupils when I felt a presence behind me," Rainer Heise told the German ARD television network.
"I turned around, and saw a black silhouette, his face hidden by a balaclava. Suddenly he ripped it off, and I recognised him," Heise said.
"I then asked him: 'Robert, did you shoot?' The young man was silent. 'Robert, what's going on in your head?' Silence again.
"I then showed him my chest and asked him to shoot at me saying, 'but if you shoot, look into my eyes'. Then, he responded, 'for today, sir, that's enough'. I then shoved him into an empty classroom and locked the door.
If even Christ despaired on the Cross--"Oh Lord, why hast thou forsaken me"--there's not much hope that we mere mortals will be able to avoid occassional despair ourselves. Yet out of even horrific incidents like this one come moments of heroism that make us realize just how complex and marvelous we humans, for all our faults, really are. The desire to dispense with our humanity, formerly the province of religion but now the motivating force of sciences like genetic engineering, is understandable and should the dream be achieved might well prevent such senseless slaughters. But if it would do so at the cost of that which is best in us too, the foolhardy courage of a Rainer Heise, then we think the price is too high.
PRESUMPTION THY NAME IS MAN :The future of humanity: "How beauteous mankind is!" said Miranda in The Tempest. But can natural evolution or our own genetic engineering improve on the present model? (Colin Tudge, 8th April 2002, New Statesman)
The designer baby,...the child conceived like a custom car, is metaphorical pornography that, we may note in passing, is perpetrated not by the much-maligned "press", but by the scientists themselves, many of whom have their eyes on megabucks and argue the market mantra that what people are prepared to pay for is by definition good. Fortunately, it is also ludicrous. The listing of genes through the Human Genome Project does not "open the book of life" as some idle geneticists (not the Cambridge scientists who actually did the work) have claimed.
If we think of genes as words, then what we have is an incomplete lexicon. An individual's apportionment of genes - the genome - should be construed as an arcane work of literature with its own syntax, puns, allusions, redundancies, colloquialisms and overall "meaning" of which we have almost no inkling, and may never understand exhaustively. On present knowledge, or even with what we are likely to know in the next two centuries, it would be as presumptuous to try to improve on the genes of a healthy human baby as it would be to edit sacred verse in medieval Chinese if all we had to go on was a bad dictionary.
So all in all, human beings seem likely to remain as they are, genetically speaking, barring some ecological disaster; and there doesn't seem to be much that meddling human beings can do about it. This, surely, is a mercy. We may have been shaped blindly by evolution. We may have been guided on our way by God. Whichever it was, or both, the job has been done a million times better than we are ever likely to do. Natural selection is far more subtle than human invention. "What a piece of work is a man!" said Hamlet. "How beauteous mankind is!" said Miranda. Both of them were absolutely right.
Unfortunately, Mr. Tudge seems to have missed the point. He assumes that because such experimentation will not actually result in an "improved" human being that it will not be undertaken. If only science worked that way. Instead, genetic engineering may well come to resemble alchemy, a futile even destructive but wildly popular pursuit, fueled by the promise of great wealth for the successful, undeterred by the repeated failure of even the greatest minds (Newton in the case of the search for man-made gold).
GEORGE WHO? :A War of Resolve : American kowtowing to "moderate" Arabs may embolden bin Laden. (Bernard Lewis, April 26, 2002, Wall Street Journal)
When Osama bin Laden launched his attack on the U.S. on Sept. 11, he was proceeding on an assumption of the weakness of American resolve. It is a point he made clear in many of his previous statements, notably in his interview with John Miller of ABC, on May 28, 1998:
"We have seen in the last decade the decline of the American government and the weakness of the American soldier, who is ready to wage cold wars and unprepared to fight long wars," he said. "This was proven in Beirut when the Marines fled after two explosions. It also proves they can run in less than 24 hours and this was also repeated in Somalia. . . . [Our] youth were surprised at the low morale of the American soldiers. . . . After a few blows, they ran in defeat . . . they forgot about being the world leader and the leader of the new world order. They left, dragging their corpses and their shameful defeat."
As they saw it, the Islamic fighters in Afghanistan had defeated and destroyed the mighty Soviet Union. Dealing with the U.S. would be a much easier task.
This was his belief and the source of his resolve. The same message appears in several other statements--that Americans had become soft and pampered, unable or unwilling to stand up and fight. It was a lesson bin Laden extracted from our responses to previous attacks: He expected more of the same. There would be fierce words and perhaps the U.S. would launch a missile or two to some remote places, but there would be little else in terms of retaliation.
It was a natural error. Nothing in his background or his experience would enable him to understand that a major policy change could result from an election.
As we now know, it was also a deadly error.
The rest of the piece is an important warning, from the foremost Western observer of the Middle East, that we must not allow ourselves to appear to be waffling about the war on terrorism, but we particularly like the way Mr. Lewis slips the chiv in there, suggesting that bin Laden's biggest mistake was in thinking the feckless Bill Clinton was still president.
OUR KIND OF TAKE YOUR KID TO WORK DAY :Hellbilly Hank : Country singer wrestles with a family legacy (Greg Cahill, MetroActive)
As the son of Hank Jr. and his second wife, Gwen Yeargin Williams, Hank III grew up in Atlanta and Nashville, often not seeing his father for years at a time. Cursed with a learning disability, Hank III fared poorly in school. When his father's band passed through town, his young son would sit in on drums and was quick to learn the benefits of life as a musician. "Growing up and going to my dad's shows and seeing the excitement of all these people, the cigarette smoke and all the drinking, girls running around with their shirts off," he told MSNBC, "at 12 years old, 11 years old, that was like, 'Wow, look at that!'"
What a gyp, the Brothers got stuck with a dad who was a Baptist minister. The most trouble we could get into at his workplace was stealing the Wonder bread and grape juice we used for communion.
A DEMOCRAT CONTRACT :Death and Taxes (Michael Crowley, 04.25.02, New Republic)
After enduring weeks of ridicule for their lack of a cogent political message, Democrats have even rolled out a new platform for the 2002 elections. Following consultations between Tom Daschle, Dick Gephardt, and strategists at the Democratic National Committee, last week Democrats arrived at a list of five key issues--printed on laminated cards and distributed to House and Senate members--that contrast "Democratic Values" with "Misplaced Republican Priorities." Its pillars are Social Security and "pension" security (not-so-implicitly tied to the Enron meltdown), the environment, a prescription-drug benefit, and new spending on schools.
Mr. Crowley goes on to belittle Democrats for their incoherence on the Bush tax cuts, but these five issues do seem to establish the grounds for a worthwhile debate between the two parties. If Democrats are truly willing to step forward and say that they are unalterably opposed to Social Security reform, favor greater government control over private pension plans, favor greater government control over business (for environmental purposes), favor further socializing medicine, and oppose any alteration to the current system of public education, then there might be life in the old donkey yet. One suspects that such a program, which openly exchanges freedom for security, would be wildly popular with their base, with the very wealthy (among whom the Democrats have made great inroads in recent years), and with those notorious soccer moms. If they have sense enough to make these into a kind of Democratic Contract with America, they could even nationalize the coming congressional election and win governing majorities in both houses of Congress this Fall.
ALL IDEAS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL :The Sanctity of Smut : How did "virtual child porn" end up with constitutional protection? (ROBERT H. BORK, April 27, 2002, Wall Street Journal)
The importance of the Free Speech Coalition decision is less in its particular rejections of the government's necessarily limited rationales, however, than in the light the case throws upon the entire direction of First Amendment decisions that have brought the court to this point. There was, to put the matter bluntly, no good reason to throw free speech protections around pornography, nude dancing, raw profanity, and calls for law violation in the first place. Our jurisprudence has gone so far astray that there appears to be a right to display a picture of the Virgin Mary festooned with pornographic pictures and cow dung; but the presence of a crche on government property is a forbidden establishment of religion under the same amendment.
There is nothing about the First Amendment that requires these results. That until relatively recently pornographers did not even raise the First Amendment in defending their sordid trade indicates how far we have come. It would seem merely common sense to think that graphic depictions of children in sexual acts would likely result in some action by pedophiles. The court finesses that problem with the statement that its "precedents establish . . . that speech within the rights of adults to hear may not be silenced completely in an attempt to shield children from it." Quite right. But why is pornography within the rights of adults to hear and see?
And why--to take only one category of speech undeserving of the court's solicitude--are the rawest forms of profanity exempt from regulation? Cable television is saturated with words never before used in public, and the broadcast networks are racing to catch up. The New York Times reports that in "A Season on the Brink," the character playing basketball coach Bobby Knight "drops the F-word 15 times in the first 15 minutes," and that the characters in "South Park" used a "well-known word for excrement 162 times in 30 minutes." The industry response to criticism on this score is that such words give the programs authenticity because this is the way people talk. In reality, however, the arrow probably points in the other direction.
People increasingly talk this way because they hear the words on television, and they hear the words on television because the Supreme Court's rulings have deprived the government of any effective sanctions for profanity. In justifying its decision here, the court actually said, "The right to think is the beginning of freedom, and speech must be protected from the government because speech is the beginning of thought." One wonders what valuable thoughts are triggered by child pornography or by nude dancing and profanity. The point is not that the court should outlaw such things; it has no power to do so. But it ought not to deny society the power to curb speech of no social value, indeed capable of inflicting great social harm.
I still don't get what important idea it is we're protecting when we allow pornography. The degradation and objectification of our fellow humans is an idea, but how does it advance the purposes for which we instituted government in the first place :
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
April 27, 2002
50% EXTREMISTS :Voices of the far right : Was Le Pen’s strong showing an accident or a wake-up call? (Eric Alterman, 4/25/02, MSNBC)
While the U.S. and French election systems have almost nothing in common, the predicaments facing each society’s political system are similar. Both are characterized primarily by apathy. In both cases, the forces on the left are so divided that they are allowing a far-right minority to define the terms of the debate in the larger society while internecine arguments and self-recriminations dominate their thoughts and energies. The spokespeople for these allegedly liberal parties are terrified of saying anything of substance for fear of alienating any of these combative constituencies as well as the precious centrist or “undecided” voter. The result is that the base remains unmotivated, except on the fringes, and when apathy rules on the left, the right is able to steal not only elections, but also the entire political discourse.
Either the far right is stronger in France than it is here or it is dumber. In the United States, our right-wing extremists are better disciplined than those in France and our own Naderites. As the failure of the Buchanan campaign demonstrates, they were smart enough to work through the Republican Party in exchange for future concessions from the Bush campaign, rather than challenge their natural allies with the prospect of being a spoiler. They were ultimately rewarded when John Ashcroft - a far-right ex-senator who was so extreme that he managed to lose an election to a dead man - was named U.S. attorney general.
Apparently the answer to Mr. Alterman's question is ; no, it's not a wake-up call. One might think that he'd have noticed that he's saying the Left is "terrified of saying anything of substance" but that the "far right", like President Bush (?), does not hesitate to enunciate even its most radical policies. In a political climate where the radical rightists assume their program will appeal to the "centrist" voters while the leftists know theirs won't, you'd think the lesson a liberal would take away from all this is that his own ideas are the problem, not the other guys.
Liberals do seem to get this implicitly, as witness the repeated nominations of (relatively) conservative white Southerners (Carter, Clinton, Gore) to head the Democratic presidential ticket whenever they have a shot at winning (while offering up liberal canon fodder like Mondale and Dukakis when they have no prayer). But they seem unable to say it aloud or to face the full implications--which include the fact that conservative white Southerners (Clinton/Bush/ Perot and Gore/Bush) basically got every vote in '92 and '00.
Ralph Nader is the only serious candidate of the Left (see below) to run in a recent presidential election and he got about 1% of the vote. It seems fair to say that in modern America, the Right gets about 99% of the national vote, with close to 50% of even that vote consistently going to the Far Right (as Alterman apparently considers folks like Bush and Ashcroft to be), while the Left has nearly ceased to exist. In determining who's extreme and who's mainstream, Mr. Alterman might do well to consider that 70%+ of the American people think Attorney General Ashcroft is doing a good job, while Janet Reno (that icon of the Left) is about to get pummeled by a Far Right-winger in the FL gubernatorial.
The Left isn't just apathetic; it's brain dead. And the inability of folks like Mr. Alterman to come to grips with the unpopularity of the policies they believe isn't helping any.
ONCE WERE WHIGS...:Taking on corporate government in an age of surrender : Goals for a better America and stronger democratic tools. (Ralph Nader, SF Bay Guardian)
I summarized these first-stage goals for a better America and stronger democratic tools in my new book, Crashing the Party: Taking on the Corporate Government in an Age of Surrender, to wit:
1. Enact legislation that mandates publicly financed public elections [...]
2. Enact living-wage laws, strengthen worker health and safety laws, and repeal Taft-Hartley and other obstructions to collective bargaining and worker rights.
3. Issue environmental protection standards to systematically reduce damaging environmental toxins and to promote sustainable technologies like solar energy and organic farming.
4. Provide full Medicare coverage for everyone...
5. Launch a national mission to abolish poverty...
6. Design and implement a national security policy to counter violence...
7. Renegotiate NAFTA and GATT to be democratic...
8. End criminal justice system discrimination, reject the failed war on drugs in favor of rehabilitation and community development, and replace for-profit corporate prisons with superior public institutions.
9. Defend and strengthen the civil justice system, apply criminal laws against corporate crime, and fully prosecute consumer fraud and abuses. Expand consumer, worker, and children's health, safety, and economic rights.
10. Strengthen investor-shareholder rights, remedies, and authority over managers, officers, and boards of directors...
Obviously from the perspective of a conservative (or anyone who was paying attention during the 20th Century), this program seems like lunacy. But you have to wonder if the Greens couldn't eventually supplant the Democrats by advocating such policies while the Dems remain supine. If you believe in liberalism, isn't this platform more appealing than the Clinton/Gore/Daschle/Gephardt brand of GOP-Lite that national Democrats have been peddling?
A CANCER GROWING IN THE ISLAMIC BODY POLITIC :Anti-Semitism Is Deepening Among Muslims (SUSAN SACHS, April 27, 2002, NY Times)
[A]nti-Semitic imagery is now embedded in the mainstream discourse concerning Jews in much of the Islamic world, in the popular press and in academic journals.
The depictions are not limited to countries that are at war with Israel but can be found in general-interest publications in Egypt and Jordan, the two countries that have signed peace agreements with Israel, as well as in independent religious schools in Pakistan and Southeast Asia.
Arab leaders, for their part, have long rejected the accusation that their state-controlled press, universities and television stations promulgate anti-Semitic views. Islamic history, they say, contains nothing like the anti-Semitic horrors that occurred in Christian Europe, and Islam as a religion accepts many of the revelations embodied in Judaism.
The use of Nazi imagery, the newspaper caricatures of Jews with fangs and exaggerated hook noses, even the Arab textbooks with their descriptions of Jews as evil world conspirators — all of that, Arab leaders often insist, reflect a dislike for Israelis and Zionism but not for Jews and Judaism.
Yet in many Muslim countries the hatred of Jews as Jews, and not only as citizens of Israel, has been nurtured through popular culture for generations.
Now the question is can a generation of Muslims who have been raised on such hate-filled perversions and filth be redeemed? Recalling what had to be done to Nazi Germany to purge it of eliminationist anti-Semitism gives one little cause for optimism in this regard.
April 26, 2002
PREDICTABLE TO ALL BUT THE PUNDITS:Policy Divide Thwarts Powell in Mideast Effort : Defense Dept.'s Influence Frustrates State Dept. (Alan Sipress, April 26, 2002, Washington Post)
State Department officials say Secretary of State Colin L. Powell has been repeatedly undercut by other senior policymakers in his effort to break the Middle East deadlock, warning this has left U.S. diplomacy paralyzed at an especially volatile moment.
These officials say that Powell's return from the Middle East a week ago with few concrete results has left them more discouraged than at any time since the Bush administration took office.
They partly fault what they said was the administration's unwillingness to stand behind Powell, especially in pressuring Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to withdraw his forces from West Bank cities and hold accelerated talks with the Palestinians. Department officials said they continue to face objections as they seek to fashion a diplomatic initiative aimed at creating a Palestinian state.
Any sensible observer of the Powell Peace Mission, though there weren't many in the punditocracy, knew how the post trip stories would play out. Today's apparently the day.
Despite the caterwauling of neocon hawks and the hopeful hossannas of the doves, the trip was always going to end in disaster; that's why Bush let him go. So now you have this story where everyone but the janitor at the State Department leaks to the Post about how the only thing preventing peace from flowering is other evil bureaucrats in different agencies. Oh yeah, if it weren't for Paul Wolfowitz, I bet Arafat and Sharon would be playing shuffleboard together.
Then on NPR's All Things Considered tonight you get David Brooks saying that Bush's spine has stiffened and the wobbling has stopped. Thank God for those stern warnings from Bill Kristol--the Republic has been saved!
These folks--claiming credit or parceling blame for stuff that's inevitable-- remind us of the rooster who thinks his crowing brings the dawn.
A CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS? :
NOBEL PRIZE WINNERS :
ARAB/ISLAMIC: 1,200,000,000 Muslims (or about 20% of the world's population)
1978 - Mohamed Anwar El-Sadat
1994 - Yaser Arafat
1990 - Elias James Corey
1999 - Ahmed Zewail
1960 - Peter Brian Medawar
1998 - Ferid Mourad
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
JEWISH NOBEL WINNERS
14,000,000 (or about 0.02% of the world's population, or about the population of Nepal or Morocco)
1910 - Paul Heyse
1927 - Henri Bergson
1958 - Boris Pasternak
1966 - Shmuel Yosef Agnon
1966 - Nelly Sachs
1976 - Saul Bellow
1978 - Isaac Bashevis Singer
1981 - Elias Canetti
1987 - Joseph Brodsky
1991 - Nadine Gordimer
1911 - Alfred Fried
1911 - Tobias Michael Carel Asser
1968 - Rene Cassin
1973 - Henry Kissinger
1978 - Menachem Begin
1986 - Elie Wiesel
1994 - Shimon Peres
1994 - Yitzhak Rabin
1905 - Adolph Von Baeyer
1906 - Henri Moissan
1910 - Otto Wallach
1915 - Richard Willstaetter
1918 - Fritz Haber
1943 - George Charles de Hevesy
1961 - Melvin Calvin
1962 - Max Ferdinand Perutz
1972 - William Howard Stein
1977 - Ilya Prigogine
1979 - Herbert Charles Brown
1980 - Paul Berg
1980 - Walter Gilbert
1981 - Roald Hoffmann
1982 - Aaron Klug
1985 - Albert A. Hauptman
1985 - Jerome Karle
1986 - Dudley R. Herschbach
1988 - Robert Huber
1989 - Sidney Altman
1992 - Rudolph Marcus
2000 - Alan J. Heeger
1970 - Paul Anthony Samuelson
1971 - Simon Kuznets
1972 - Kenneth Joseph Arrow
1975 - Leonid Kantorovich
1976 - Milton Friedman
1978 - Herbert A. Simon
1980 - Lawrence Robert Klein
1985 - Franco Modigliani
1987 - Robert M. Solow
1990 - Harry Markowitz
1990 - Merton Miller
1992 - Gary Becker
1993 - Rober Fogel
1908 - Elie Metchnikoff
1908 - Paul Erlich
1914 - Robert Barany
1922 - Otto Meyerhof
1930 - Karl Landsteiner
1931 - Otto Warburg
1936 - Otto Loewi
1944 - Joseph Erlanger
1944 - Herbert Spencer Gasser
1945 - Ernst Boris Chain
1946 - Hermann Joseph Muller
1950 - Tadeus Reichstein
1952 - Selman Abraham Waksman
1953 - Hans Krebs
1953 - Fritz Albert Lipmann
1958 - Joshua Lederberg
1959 - Arthur Kornberg
1964 - Konrad Bloch
1965 - Francois Jacob
1965 - Andre Lwoff
1967 - George Wald
1968 - Marshall W. Nirenberg
1969 - Salvador Luria
1970 - Julius Axelrod
1970 - Sir Bernard Katz
1972 - Gerald Maurice Edelman
1975 - David Baltimore
1975 - Howard Martin Temin
1976 - Baruch S. Blumberg
1977 - Rosalyn Sussman Yalow
1978 - Daniel Nathans
1980 - Baruj Benacerraf
1984 - Cesar Milstein
1985 - Michael Stuart Brown
1985 - Joseph L. Goldstein
1986 - Stanley Cohen [& Rita Levi-Montalcini]
1988 - Gertrude Elion
1989 - Harold Varmus
1991 - Erwin Neher
1991 - Bert Sakmann
1993 - Richard J. Roberts
1993 - Phillip Sharp
1994 - Alfred Gilman
1995 - Edward B. Lewis
1907 - Albert Abraham Michelson
1908 - Gabriel Lippmann
1921 - Albert Einstein
1922 - Niels Bohr
1925 - James Franck
1925 - Gustav Hertz
1943 - Gustav Stern
1944 - Isidor Issac Rabi
1952 - Felix Bloch
1954 - Max Born
1958 - Igor Tamm
1959 - Emilio Segre
1960 - Donald A. Glaser
1961 - Robert Hofstadter
1962 - Lev Davidovich Landau
1965 - Richard Phillips Feynman
1965 - Julian Schwinger
1969 - Murray Gell-Mann
1971 - Dennis Gabor
1973 - Brian David Josephson
1975 - Benjamin Mottleson
1976 - Burton Richter
1978 - Arno Allan Penzias
1978 - Peter L Kapitza
1979 - Stephen Weinberg
1979 - Sheldon Glashow
1988 - Leon Lederman
1988 - Melvin Schwartz
1988 - Jack Steinberger
1990 - Jerome Friedman
1995 - Martin Perl
(Source: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., Chicago,Ill., Britannica Book of the Year, 1999)
N.B. I wish we could take credit for the idea and the research here, because it's brilliant, but this came over our transom as an e-mail.
BLAMING THE VICTIMS :France: Dangerous Illusions . . . (Salman Rushdie, April 26, 2002, washingtonpost.com)
Every so often, an electorate will shrug its shoulders and decide there isn't much difference between the main contenders for office. The day after the election, reality bites, but by then it's too late. When it last happened in Britain, the consequence was Margaret Thatcher's long, damaging reign. Voter apathy was also a crucial factor, perhaps the crucial factor, in the Bush-Gore presidential election; as a result, the fiasco in Florida turned into the decisive event it should never have become. Now the malaise has struck France, and although Lionel Jospin has rightly accepted the blame for an Al Gore-ishly lackluster campaign, he is not the only one at fault. It's an old adage in politics that the electorate is never wrong, but in this case, by golly, it was. Maybe it's the French electorate that should resign instead of Jospin, and make room for new voters more interested in shouldering their responsibilities.
It's a terrible truth about our awful times that the people who seem to care least about freedom and democracy are the ones who have the readiest access to these treasures.
While it is absolutely necessary to condemn the racism, anti-Semitism, and fascist tendencies of Le Pen, it is also important to take seriously the reasons that people might support him. Exterminating or expelling immigrants is unacceptable but it is a response to a legitimate concern--the deterioration of French Culture. Now, the French themselves are to blame for most of that deterioration--with their existentialism and sophistication, their belief in and dependence on the State, their failure to produce children, etc., etc., etc. But even with all these problems, France could at least go to its grave still French were it not for its immigration problems. Western Europeans may have lost faith in their own culture, but the Islamic immigrants have not lost faith in theirs. So France becomes a country with more mosques than churches and the French, who don't mind cultural suicide perceive instead a cultural murder, themselves the victims. No people of any pride whatsoever could tolerate this state of affairs. And the French, if nothing else, have their pride.
It seems significant that the British and American examples that Mr. Rushdie cites are also cases where a fed up bourgeoisie perceived its culture being destroyed and lashes out. He's right about apathy playing a role, but it's a particular brand of apathy that brings conservatives to power. If everyone in a society voted the conservative candidate would never win. Conservatives, as is often said, are the Daddy Party, the party that tells you that you're responsible for yourself and that you'd better shape up. The parties of the Left are Mommy Parties--the parties that tell you your problems are someone else's fault and who promise to take care of you. More folks want to hear the latter than the former.
But Moms are so permissive and so "generous" that sooner or later a family or a nation requires that the stern and fatherly hand be applied. When these moments come for a nation, the masses do indeed stay home, as if recognizing the need for discipline but unwilling to ask for it, while the middle classes turn out in even greater numbers than usual, outraged at the state that affairs have been allowed to reach. The more apt example that Mr. Rushdie might have chosen was the 1994 Congressional elections, the Republican Revolution that was mostly a function of angry white males outvoting shame-faced Democrats. France can listen to the Rushdies and pretend that this was all a big mistake, which need not be repeated. But it will be making a tragic error. If the problems that so disgusted French voters--of Left and Right--are not addressed, even worse election results will follow in the future. And since the Left seems congenitally incapable of addressing such problems, what is necessary is for Jacques Chirac to turn his party into a truly conservative party, capable of enacting the more sensible measures that Le Pen is calling for but strong enough to reject his neo-Nazism.
Finally, Mr. Rushdie is quite wrong when he conflates freedom and democracy, for the two are frequently opposed and never identical. The masses don't believe in freedom; to the extent that they "believe" in anything they believe in equality, or at least in redistributing the wealth of others to themselves as a way of leveling inequality. That's why the parties of freedom, conservative parties, only come to power when the masses are apathetic. For freedom to prevail, democracy must malfunction (though presumably not always as manifestly as it did in Florida). The malfunction of Europe's democracies offers a chance for freedom to return to the continent, but for this to happen responsible political parties must listen to the message that the Le Pen vote sent.
F EUROPE :Europe and 'Those People' : Anti-Semitism arises again. (Charles Krauthammer, April 26, 2002, washingtonpost.com)
Three people have been chosen by the United Nations to judge Israel's actions in Jenin. Two are sons of Europe, and one of those is Cornelio Sommaruga. As former head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Sommaruga spent 12 years ensuring that the only nation on earth to be refused admission to the International Red Cross is Israel. The problem, he said, was its symbol: "If we're going to have the Shield of David, why would we not have to accept the swastika?"
One of the good things--at least if you're as unilateralist as we are--that's coming out of the current world situation, is that a bunch of countries that residual affection has made our allies are proving themselves to be anything but. After all, the ancestors of the Brothers Judd were chased out of all the better countries of Europe for their religious beliefs; what debt of loyalty do we owe the skunk-spawn who remained behind? Europeans to a disturbing degree still believe in nationalism, that your nationality is a function of blood and soil. In America we believe instead in a set of ideas that anyone, no matter how newly arrived, can pledge their allegiance to and thereby become just as American as those who've been here the longest. Who should be lecturing whom?
A REPUBLIC, NOT A DEMOCRACY :REVIEW ESSAY : Rambunctious American Democracy (Gordon S. Wood, May 9, 2002, The New York Review of Books)
Since [Robert A.] Dahl, who is Sterling Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Yale University, doesn't like our Constitution, his book is very critical of the
man [James Madison] considered most responsible for it. His criticism is well directed, for, as Garry Wills points out, Madison, more than any other Founder, was
radically opposed to the very sort of direct democracy that Dahl most admires. Madison wanted to refine the voice of the people in government, not replicate it, as Dahl would like to do. In his new book, which originated as the Castle Lectures at Yale, Dahl has brought together his long-existing criticism of Madison's attempts to restrain majority rule into a devastating attack on the undemocratic character of the American Constitution. Perhaps not since Progressive scholars such as J. Allen Smith wrote at the beginning of the twentieth century has anyone condemned the Constitution so harshly.
Dahl wants us to change the way we think about the Constitution. We should stop assuming it to be a national icon that is superior to the constitutional structures of other democratic countries and begin to consider ways of reforming it in order to make it more compatible with democratic standards and values. Although Dahl has no hope whatever that we will make any substantial democratic changes in our constitutional system in the immediate future, he nonetheless wants to open up discussion of the Constitution and its shortcomings, a discussion that he hopes may, in time, lead to something.
These shortcomings are serious, and many of them can be traced to the mistakes of Madison and the other members of the Philadelphia Convention who drew up the Constitution. Of course, says Dahl, some of the undemocratic features of our constitutional system, such as the extraordinary power over social policy that has come to be wielded by the Supreme Court, were not really the fault of the Framers. But many others were. The most egregious of their mistakes (apart from their failure to abolish slavery, of course) involved their acceptance of political inequality, most notably in the equal representation of the states in the Senate and in the use of electors in the election of the president. Whatever justification there was for the so-called "Connecticut Compromise" at the convention, which entitled each state to two senators, it has led, says Dahl, to "a profound violation of the democratic idea of political equality among all citizens." That Wyoming, with a half-million people, has the same two senators as California, with nearly 34 million, is in Dahl's opinion an absurdity. Other established democratic states have federal systems and bicameral legislatures with one house representing geographical units, but none of them has such a gross degree of unequal representation as the United States.
"Exactly whom or whose interests is a second chamber supposed to represent?" Dahl asks. Certainly the Framers provided "no rationally convincing answer." As far as Dahl is concerned, the only reason second chambers exist "in all federal systems is to preserve and protect unequal representation. That is, they exist primarily to ensure that the representatives of small units cannot be readily outvoted by the representatives of large units. In a word, they are designed to construct a barrier to majority rule at the national level."
Of course, that's precisely the genius of the American system. What Mr. Dahl perceives as shortcomings are those features of the Constitution that act as brakes upon the momentary and short-sighted passions of men, and make it difficult for a mere majority to make radical changes. The one criticism here that's correct is of the Supreme Court, and it's correct because the Court has taken on this kind of extraordinary power to make fundamental changes to society.
As mentioned in various posts below, two changes to the Constitution that are worthy of consideration are a restriction of the franchise (via literacy tests, poll taxes, hiking voting age back up to 21, doing away with direct election of Senators, getting rid of "one man, one vote", taking away the District of Columbia's electoral votes, etc.) and imposing limitations on the power of the Court to make the final determination of a law's constitutionality (perhaps by allowing a supermajority in Congress and the president together to veto Court rulings).
We've too much democracy, not too little, and a Judiciary whose legislative activities completely violate the intent of the Framers. The conservative spirit of the Constitution is intended to make change difficult to achieve--we like that.
A REPUBLICAN RECESSION :U.S. Economy Grew at a Sizzling 5.8% Rate in the First Quarter (REUTERS, 4/26/02)
The latest report from the Commerce Department showed the economy snapping back sharply from one of the mildest recessions in history but may not fully resolve lingering concerns about the strength of economic growth going forward.
U.S. gross domestic product, measuring the amount of goods and services produced within U.S. borders, bolted ahead at a 5.8 percent annual rate in the first three months of this year -- a full percentage point higher than the forecasts of private economists. The latest growth in GDP was the strongest since the economy soared 8.3 percent in the final quarter of 1999.
The other Brother points out that in their eagerness to portray W's tax cut as causing an economic disaster, the press has played fast and loose with the definition of a "recession". Previously, it has been understood that, technically speaking, a recession requires two consecutive quarters of actual shrinkage in GDP. To the best of our knowledge there was just one quarter of decline in 2001.
UPDATE : In the Comments, M Ali Choudhury (The AntiPundit) posted a link to a story from last November in The Economist : Say “R” : Economists have a dismal record in predicting recession (The
Economist, Nov 29th 2001)
As recently as February , 95% of American economists said it wouldn't happen, but it has. America is now in recession, according to—don't laugh—the Business Cycle Dating Committee at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the official arbiter of American business cycles. This group of six economists reckons that the recession began in March, after ten years of expansion, the longest in American history.
To followers of The Economist's R-word index (which counts the number of times that the word “recession” appears in American newspapers), this comes as no surprise. The index, unrigorous as it is, has accurately pinpointed the start of previous recessions, and it started to flash red in the first quarter of this year. But most American economists thought otherwise. Last January  The Economist's poll of forecasters predicted, on average, that GDP growth would be 2.3% in 2001. Now the country will be lucky if it sees growth of 1%. Even in early September few economists were forecasting a recession. Now it appears that one had already been under way for almost six months.
How should you define recession? The most popular rule of thumb is that it means two consecutive quarters of declining GDP, and so far America has seen only one quarter's decline. But the NBER committee rejects this criterion as neither necessary nor sufficient.
It is possible to have a recession without two consecutive quarterly contractions, as America and others have had. GDP could fall sharply in one quarter, for example, rise slightly in the next quarter, and then plunge again in a third. That certainly ought to count as a recession. On the other hand, if output fell only slightly in each of two consecutive quarters, that might not be enough to warrant the label. Most newspapers were quick last week to declare the German economy in recession after German GDP fell by 0.03% in the second quarter and by 0.1% in the third. That would probably not pass the NBER recession test.
The NBER committee defines recession as a significant decline in activity, spread across the economy and lasting more than a few months, and also visible in industrial production, employment, real income, and business and retail sales. The declared starting-point of a recession is then based on a compromise between the different times at which all these indicators start turning down.
That's pretty amusing, a story on how hard it is to date a recession that's totally wrong about us being in one.
ANYBODY BURN ME A COPY? :God saves the nu-soul queen : Lauryn Hill fused R&B and hip hop. Now she's added religion to the mix (Akin Ojumu, April 21, 2002, The Observer)
At the end of the last century, Hill was the most exciting artist around; her debut solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998), was a landmark that illustrated how the two main strands of contemporary black American music - R&B and hip hop - could fuse. Her precocious album tackled sensitive subjects such as her motherhood and black sexual mores with frankness, straddling so many genres that calling it 'nu-soul' seemed like damnation by faint praise. Though younger than Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and Macy Gray, she was the first to make an impact.
Then she disappeared. Her gradual re-emergence has been intriguing. Hill's new double album, MTV Unplugged 2.0 - possible subtitle, 'The Reinvention of Lauryn Hill' - is a work in progress, comprising new songs likely to form the skeleton of the next studio album. Recorded last July, MTV finally premiered the two-hour concert last month. It's easy to see why MTV and her record company were uncertain about the new material. It seems Hill has embraced God and radical politics; she bares her soul during the long interludes between songs in a therapy-speak familiar to Oprah viewers: 'I'm just getting to know the real me', 'I used to be concerned with fantasy, now I'm in touch with reality'. True, Hill and her former band The Fugees, were 'conscious' artists, intent on raising topical issues, but now the singer, who turns 27 next month, uses the uncompromising voice favoured by Public Enemy fuelled by an evangelical zeal. [...]
She has found her own way of bridging the old black music divide between divine and worldly subjects, gospel and soul, that bedevilled earthy predecessors such as Little Richard and Al Green.
Despite moments of self-indulgence, Hill's album only occasionally falters, while some of her singing and rapping is extraordinary. Let's hope we get to hear the finished article one day.
Just that one comparison, to "Public Enemy fuelled by an evangelical zeal", makes us want to give it a listen. Fight the powers, sugar.
A VERY FAMOUS, RATHER VACUOUS, POEM :Shame the Devil : In the wake of September 11, everyone was quoting W.H Auden's "September 1, 1939." But Auden himself repudiated the poem's most famous lines. (Alan Jacobs, March/April 2002, Books & Culture)
Casting his mind across the ocean, then, to the continent he had recently abandoned--largely because of the relentless pressures and expectations it
held for him--Auden was moved to consider the question that one always considers in such situations: why did this horrible event happen? And his answer would become one of the two most famous moments in this very famous poem:
Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.
This is basically the argument of John Maynard Keynes's book of 1919, The Economic Consequences of the Peace, only in simplified and moralized form: the countries that had placed such an enormous financial and moral burden on Germany with the Treaty of Versailles were responsible for the events of September 1, and only pedantry or manipulative political rhetoric could mask that responsibility. And Auden emphasizes that he speaks not for himself only: anticipating those pedants and politicians, he masses the wisdom of "the public" and "schoolchildren." The appeal is palpably democratic, but the tone hieratic; the prophetic here wells up from below, rather than descending from on high. [...]
[T]he other comes in the penultimate stanza:
All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.
[O]nly Eric McHenry, to my knowledge, has noted one of the most interesting and significant facts about the poem: that within five years of writing it Auden had completely repudiated it, and eventually excluded it from all collections of his poems over which he had control. Why and how did this happen?
Most will recognize this poem which got beaten like a dead horse after 9-11. This is a revealing look at how Auden came to realize the moral emptiness of his initial response to the outbreak of WWII and how he came to regret the prophetic tone of his pronouncements.
April 25, 2002
NEGOTIATING WITH THE BLACK KNIGHT :Saudi to Warn Bush of Rupture Over Israel Policy (PATRICK E. TYLER, Apr 25, 2002, The New York Times)
Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is expected to tell President Bush in stark terms at their meeting today that the strategic relationship between their two countries will be threatened if Mr. Bush does not moderate his support for Israel's military policies, a person familiar with the Saudi's thinking said on Wednesday. [...]
In a bleak assessment on Wednesday, the person close to the crown prince said there was talk within the Saudi royal family and in Arab capitals of using the "oil weapon" against the United States, and demanding that the United States leave strategic military bases in the region.
Such measures, he said, would be a "strategic debacle for the United States."
He also warned of a general drift by Arab leaders toward the radical politics that have been building in the Arab street.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, a dumbfounded Winston Churchill, who until then had been futilely trying to get America to enter the war, asked : "What kind of a people do they think we are?" Though their mistake was Britain's great, good fortune, he could not believe they were so stupid as to believe they could attack the U.S. and not pay a horrible price.
If the Crown Prince actually has the temerity to deliver this message, somewhere in Heaven tonight, Mr. Churchill will turn to Clementine and ask again :
What kind of people do they think we are?
THE SQUARE PEG RESISTS THE 'HAMMER :Crossing Lines : A Secular Argument Against Research Cloning (Charles Krauthammer, 04.22.02, New Republic)
The Holy Grail of modern biology is regenerative medicine. If we can figure out how to make a specialized adult cell dedifferentiate--unspecialize, i.e., revert way back to the embryonic stage, perhaps even to the original zygotic stage--and then grow it like an embryo under controlled circumstances, we could reproduce for you every kind of tissue or organ you might need. We could create a storehouse of repair parts for your body. And, if we let that dedifferentiated cell develop completely in a woman's uterus, we will have created a copy of you, your clone.
That is the promise and the menace of cloning. It has already been done in sheep, mice, goats, pigs, cows, and now cats and rabbits (though cloning rabbits seems an exercise in biological redundancy). There is no reason in principle why it cannot be done in humans. The question is: Should it be done?
Notice that the cloning question is really two questions: (1) May we grow that dedifferentiated cell all the way into a cloned baby, a copy of you? That is called reproductive cloning. And (2) may we grow that dedifferentiated cell just into the embryonic stage and then mine it for parts, such as stem cells? That is called research cloning.
Reproductive cloning is universally abhorred. In July 2001 the House of Representatives, a fairly good representative of the American people, took up the issue and not a single member defended reproductive cloning. Research cloning, however, is the hard one. Some members were prepared to permit the cloning of the human embryo in order to study and use its component parts, with the proviso that the embryo be destroyed before it grows into a fetus or child. They were a minority, however. Their amendment banning baby-making but permitting research cloning was defeated by 76 votes. On July 31, 2001, a bill outlawing all cloning passed the House decisively.
Within weeks, perhaps days, the Senate will vote on essentially the same alternatives. On this vote will hinge the course of the genetic revolution at whose threshold we now stand.
Mr. Krauthammer goes on in this essay to try to craft a purely secular but still moral argument against cloning, but inevitably fails. The failure is inevitable because as philosophers have repeatedly found (see for example Francis Fukuyama's recent Our Posthuman Future), to their great dismay, once God is removed from the equation there is no sound footing for morality.
This is the case, in the first instance, because if Man is not created by, and in the image of, a Supreme Being there is no basis for granting each individual the kind of human dignity from which a moral system must proceed. Secondly, with no such dignity and intrinsic worth attached to each being and deprived of divine commandments to govern behavior, morality becomes completely relative, with no coherent reason for choosing between the moral reasoning of a Manson girl or a Mother Teresa. In these circumstances there really is no morality as such, there is only legality--that which 51% of us think should not be done becomes illegal, all else s permissible. This is why modern society is so legalistic and thoroughly regulated by government. As God has passed from the scene, taking with Him Judeo-Christian morality, it has been necessary to replace Him with tight-knit skein of rules covering nearly every facet of human behavior. (It is no coincidence that America is both the most religious and the freest of the Western nations--to the extent that we've retained some remnants of belief we've alleviated the need for quite as much government control as other developed nations groan under).
Mr. Krauthammer is correct in his final warning :
Creating a human embryo just so it can be used and then destroyed undermines the very foundation of the moral prudence that informs the entire enterprise of genetic research: the idea that, while a human embryo may not be a person, it is not nothing. Because if it is nothing, then everything is permitted. And if everything is permitted, then there are no fences, no safeguards, no bottom.
But his argument does nothing to help us avoid this fate, which is where secular reasoning is leading us. For the point is that under a secular regime we are things and the only bottom is those temporary safeguards that 51% of us agree on. The tyranny of the majority, which we've long recognized as the great threat to our political freedoms in a democracy, gets extended to even the "moral" realm.
This is the line we're dancing along right now--in areas like abortion, euthanasia, cloning, genetic manipulation, etc., where humans are treated as things to be disposed of as we will--and having crossed it there seems little likelihood we'll be able to reverse our course.
DISGRUNTLED EMPLOYEE :Zygotes and People Aren't Quite the Same (MICHAEL S. GAZZANIGA, April 25, 2002, NY Times)
[I]t was a surprise when, on April 10, the president announced his decision to ban cloning of all kinds. His opinions appeared fully formed even though our panel has yet to prepare a final report and will be voting on the crucial point of biomedical cloning--which produces cells to be used in researching and treating illnesses. While it is true that the president's position is one held by some of the members of the panel, not all agree. [...]
When I joined the panel, officially named the President's Council on Bioethics, I was confident that a sensible and sensitive policy might evolve from what was sure to be a cacophony of voices of scientists and philosophers representing a spectrum of opinions, beliefs and intellectual backgrounds. I only hope that in the end the president hears his council's full debate.
Apparently Mr. Gazzaniga is confused about what he was hired to do. Since he himself notes it, one might have assumed he'd comprehend the fact that he serves on the "President's" council. In other words, he serves the President not vice versa.
While the council debates, and the cloners proceed unfettered, the President made a decision. Mr. Gazzaniga does not mention how long he would have allowed the research that even he opposes to go forward while the council works on its report, which makes it seem that his are not the objections of a morally serious man.
WE ARE ALL BURKEANS NOW :French Twist : Le Pen terrifies Europe by violating its political taboos (Anne Applebaum, April 23, 2002, Slate)
Although Chirac will certainly win in the final round, the story may not end here. The unthinkable has now happened twice: The supposedly marginal far-right has scored damaging blows on the mainstream politicians of both Austria and France. Others should draw lessons. ...[A] number of European countries have avoided a similar calamity through the rejuvenation of center-right parties (most recently Denmark, Italy, and Portugal), which advocate liberal economic reforms, on the American model, more restricted immigration, and a more vigorous debate about the European Union. The rejuvenation of the left--on the somewhat idiosyncratic model of the British Labor Party--might work just as well. The alternative is bleak. If politicians refuse to address their voters' concerns--however dark and unacceptable those concerns may be--sooner or later, the voters will make them pay for it.
Ms Applebaum's essay touches upon a couple of the underestimated stories about globalization, its impact on the developed world and its fundamentally conservative influence.
If we look at Western Europe we can discern several great trends : the decline (even disappearance) of religious belief; growing dependence on government services; a tendency toward greater centralization of government, as in the creation of a European Union; declining fertility rates; and rising immigration. Not only do these trends conflict with one another, it is not clear that any of them can be maintained without eventually destroying Europe, at least as we know it.
The most obvious problem is that you can not maintain massive government services at the same time as you're experiencing population decline. It requires little economic training or imagination to understand that a shrinking taxpayer base is incompatible with the rising cost of government services. The potential responses to this demographic bind are all unpleasant, at least to Europeans : they could boost their own fertility; they could give up entitlements; or they can import workers from the Third World. They've chosen option three, but now--having combined that burgeoning population of unassimilated foreigners with the general drift away from traditional culture and values and the loss of sovereignty to the EU--are confronted with the specter of losing their sense of national identity. Will a Britain where Christianity has ceased to exist, government is run from Brussels, and the bulk of the working age population is Indian/Pakistani/Jamaican/etc., still be England? One needn't be a racist or a xenophobe to appreciate why this question would concern people.
Of even greater concern than the problem of culture; it would be one thing if a country could compete in the world economy even as its culture was transformed, but history suggests that the maintenance of a massive social welfare state, and the taxation levels required to fund it; the maintenance of a scheme of regulations as extensive as societies with no moral systems require; and the instability that results in societies where large segments of the population are unassimilated, are all incompatible with the simultaneous maintenance of the kind of economy that can compete effectively in the global economy. Europe seems to not only be on a collision course with itself but with globalization.
Fortunately though, it appears that the solutions to the internal problems of European nations are also effective in treating the external problems; that is, correcting what is unhealthy within a culture, not surprisingly, makes the nation a fitter competitor in the global economy. So, for instance, removing some of the expensive props of the welfare state tends to throw people in need back on the tender mercies of their family, thereby restoring the importance of family and specifically of marriage and children. Likewise, there is a symbiotic relationship between reducing government regulation and reinvigorating religious morality--the latter making the former possible. And, the need to fully assimilate immigrants into a culture makes people realize the importance of that culture themselves. Finally, all of these tend to have a decentralizing effect, moving society away from top-down bureaucratic governance and toward smaller, private, social arrangements. As family, church, and neighborhood are recognized as more flexible and responsive ways of dealing with social challenges, so Europe might realize that locking into a mammoth and sclerotic EU is a bad idea.
America itself must move further along this road, but to a significant degree, this process of becoming more competitive in the global economy requires countries to become more like us, and not the us of 1929-1994, but the us of 1776-1928 and 1994-now, the America of smaller government and lower taxes, of community and church, of the melting pot rather than the multiculture. The future of those nations that succeed may well be American-style conservatism. No wonder intellectual elites hate globalism.
A BLESSED EVENT :REVIEW : of Master of the Senate : The Years of Lyndon B. Johnson by Robert Caro : A Soaring Johnson, Ruthless and Crude, but Compassionate ( JILL ABRAMSON, April 24, 2002, NY Times)
The most exciting point of "Master of the Senate" comes as Mr. Caro, in chapters filled with narrative tension, shows how Johnson built the unlikely coalition that finally passed a civil rights bill and broke the historic logjam. He had to make northern liberals like Green swallow an extremely watered-down bill, telling them that the important thing was to pass a bill, not what was in it. His pitch was typically blunt: "Once you break the virginity, it'll be easier next time."
At the same time, he convinced his fellow Southerners that he had not completely abandoned them and that they could accept a weak bill that would leave cultural segregation intact. His equally blunt message to the Southern bloc was remembered by his trusted aide Bobby Baker. "I can see him now, grasping hands and poking chests and grabbing lapels, saying to the Southern politicians something like: `We got a chance to show the way. We got a chance to get the racial monkey off the South's back. We got a chance to show the Yankees that we're good and decent and civilized down here, not a bunch of barefoot, tobacco chewin' crazies."
Johnson's triumph is also Mr. Caro's triumph, for the biographer has at last found something about his subject to unabashedly admire. At 1,167 pages and 12 years in the making, this book is longer, nearly, than Mr. Caro's previous two volumes combined, but it is also much bigger-hearted. In the second volume, "Means of Ascent," which chronicles the ruthlessly stolen 1948 election that took him to the Senate, Mr. Caro portrayed a mostly loathsome Johnson. Garry Wills memorably described Mr. Caro's method, as the "inverse of gilding the lily, this continual tarring of the blackguard."
Here Johnson finally uses the attributes that Mr. Caro despised in his earlier volumes, his ambition and deceit, for a larger, grander purpose.
"It was not until Lyndon Johnson, who had never before fought in their cause, picked up the banner of civil rights that it was carried at last nearer to its goal," Caro writes.
"It took a Lyndon Johnson, with his threats and deceits, with the relentlessness with which he insisted on victory and the savagery with which he fought for it, to ram that legislation through."
At a time when so many historians have focused on the presidency, Mr. Caro has written a panoramic study of how power plays out in the legislative arena. Combining the best techniques of investigative reporting with majestic storytelling ability, he has created a vivid, revelatory institutional history as well as a rich hologram of Johnson's character.
Like many, the Brothers were profoundly depressed when it was announced that William Manchester's health would not permit him to complete the third volume of his Churchill biography. But our spirits were brightened considerably when Sharon Kay Penman recently released the next volume in his historical series on British monarchs. Now comes this happy news, as Robert Caro, whose one volume biography of Robert Moses may be the greatest biography of power ever written, finally delivers the third installment of his LBJ biography. For anyone who has been reading and enjoying the series, which should include everyone who cares about politics, a new book from Mr. Caro is like Christmas in April. And it is particularly welcome because, like Mr. Manchester, Mr. Caro is racing the clock.
A couple years ago, Mr. Caro was on C-SPAN with Brian Lamb discussing the LBJ project. Mr. Lamb was asking about the glacial pace at which the biography is being completed and tried to politely ask if, at the current rate, it will be finished before Mr. Caro goes on to his final reward. I haven't heard whether this is still his plan but at that point Mr. Caro explained that when he was writing about the Vietnam War he planned on going to live in Vietnam for a year and that for the section on the War on Poverty, he planned on living in a public housing project for a year. Distraught callers to the program, less polite than Mr. Lamb, expressed their dismay at this prospect. Mr. Caro, who I believe is in his sixties or seventies now, laughingly shared their concern that he's set himself a task that may be incompatible with his own mortality.
At any rate, we wish him well and look forward to reading his new book.
THE PLAY'S THE THING :Supreme Court Saves "Shakespearean" Child Sex Scenes - And Leaves Real Children Out in the Cold (Thomas G. West and Katherine McGinnis, April 24, 2002, The Claremont Institute--PRECEPTS)
Was the Supreme Court right to define obscenity practically out of existence a half century ago?
According to the Declaration of Independence, the purpose of government is to protect the citizen's rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That means protecting people against injury.
The Founders therefore thought that citizens should be held accountable for any speech that could be proven in court to be injurious (such as personal libel). But the Founders also banned speech that injures society more generally - by injuring its moral foundations.
James Wilson, author of the free speech clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1791, wrote, "Indecency, public and grossly scandalous, may well be considered as a species of common nuisance." Such nuisances, he said, "annoy the citizens generally" such that "public peace, and order, and tranquillity, and safety require them to be punished or abated."
Such nuisances, wrote Wilson, are like keeping hogs in a city or running a whorehouse.
The analogy is apt : the Court's decision treats the Constitution not unlike the deed of a whorehouse.
LIBERALS JUST DON'T GET IT :Clinton apologist Jonathan Alter is on Imus in the Morning, discussing the Church's homosexual scandal and he just said :
I don't understand why they so quickly took celibacy off of the table. It doesn't go back to the time of Christ. Celibacy is only a thousand years old.
Only a thousand years old? How old does something have to be before the Left concludes we shouldn't dispose of it at the drop of a hat?
NO SERIOUSLY, HE WAS BEGGING TO DIE :Mother Is Charged in a Healthy Son's Suicide (JOHN W. FOUNTAIN, April 24, 2002, NY Times)
On a cool spring night, young Patrick and Jennifer Holey gathered some blankets and pillows, stopped at McDonalds for dinner in Lansing, then went looking for a place to kill themselves.
But there was at least one other person in the car, the police say. Now, Mr. Holey's mother, Kathleen Kay Holey, is charged with two counts of assisted suicide.
The authorities say she drove Patrick, 19, and his wife, Jennifer, also 19, to the farmhouse on April 9, and handed them enough painkillers to kill themselves before leaving them for dead. Although his wife survived, Mr. Holey did not.
Prosecutors said Ms. Holey, 42, is the first person other than Dr. Jack Kevorkian to be charged with assisted suicide since a state law was passed in 1998 to stop the so-called Doctor of Death.
"Maybe it never crossed anybody's mind that somebody would try to help two perfectly healthy people kill themselves," the Clinton County prosecutor. Charles Sherman, said.
For one thing, it's awfully hard to see any moral difference between this and any other assisted suicide. All these folks who think you not only ought to be able to kill yourself but to make someone help you had better prepare to justify stories like this one.
For another, as we become the kind of culture in which you are allowed (and maybe expected or required) to kill even family members, it will become ever more difficult to distinguish between murder and suicide. Though we'd all like to think that violent crime is mainly a random phenomenon, the fact remains that most violence occurs between people who know and perhaps love (or loved) one another. Add to that the financial interests we often have in the death of those nearest to us and you have an obvious recipe for disaster.
April 24, 2002
THE PERILS OF A POLEMICIST :The earthquake in France (Pat Buchanan, April 24, 2002, TownHall.com)
Though a rightist, Le Pen...is not a conservative in the American sense, nor can he be considered pro-American. Like many European nationalists, he puts himself "socially on the Left, fiscally on the Right, and nationally, wholly for France."
What led to the explosion of support for the septuagenarian Le Pen?
One cause is what his National Front calls "the invasion." France is now host to five million Moslems, though she is neither a huge country like the United States, nor has she a history of assimilating immigrants. Also, these five million Arabs and Moslems have been associated with rising crime and assaults upon French citizens, including a riot last year at the France-Algeria soccer match, where Parisians were forced to lock themselves in their skyboxes for their own safety.
There is also the sense that French culture is being swamped by America's, and France's national identity, even her language, is being lost. What is happening in France is happening to a degree in every country of the West where the populations are dying as the great migrations from the Third World have only just begun.
The earthquake in France may portend the earthquake to come in the West, and even in America. Nor is this necessarily an unhealthy thing. As Georges Bernanos wrote of an earlier time, to be a reactionary today may simply mean to be alive, because only a corpse does not react anymore -- against the maggots teeming upon it.
Here in just a few paragraphs we see the tragedy of Pat Buchanan. On the one hand, he's one of the only political commentators in America to have clearly understood the inevitable tensions that are rising as a result of the West's demographic crisis (declining native populations with rising immigration to compensate for the birth dearth) and its modern multiculturalism (resulting in a failure to assimilate the new immigrants).
On the other hand, by the point where you are at least implicitly referring to these immigrants as "maggots", you've slipped over the edge into a frightening form of race-baiting. For the blame really belongs not on them, but on us. It is our own declining birthrates that are forcing us to recruit workers abroad and it is our acquiesence in the anti-Western social agenda of the Left that is turning what was once an American "melting pot" into an undigestable "mosaic" The difference of course it that where once we required immigrants to learn English and brought tremendous social pressure to bear on them to adopt American ways and ideals, now we are so bashful about the superiority of our own culture that we fail to impart it fully to our new citizens. The American motto--E Pluribus Unum--calls on us to forge one culture out of many peoples. Today, instead, we seem to believe that we can remain a coherent and viable nation even if our society totters upon many different, sometimes even antithetical, cultures.
We owe it not just to ourselves but to the newest Americans to inculcate the American/Western values upon which our nation is based in them and in their children. We have historically been a richer and better nation for the contributions of our great diversity of citizens, but they have in turn been richer and better for having to integrate themselves into our Western Civilization. If we are to avoid the sorry fate of France, we must require that integration again. Give us your tired, your poor, your weary, yearning to breath free, but let us recognize that it is a unique function of our traditional culture that America is free.
THE EVIL PARTY :MEMORY LOSS (Page Six, April 24, 2002, NY Post)
DISQUIETED Democrats are squirming over a Harlem fundraiser to be held tonight, where Michael Jackson will appear with Bill Clinton. "I can't believe that during the biggest pedophile scandal in the country, Clinton would appear on stage with a man who paid $20 million to settle a child-molestation case," complained one party power player.
In a related story, Tito and Jermaine are reportedly shocked that their brother will be appearing on stage with a rapist.
IDEAS HAVE CONSEQUENCES :The ugly American, Supreme Court-style (Maggie Gallagher, April 24, 2002, TownHall.com)
This latest court decision is part of the increasingly hard-to-digest fiction that pornographic images are speech. It is also a direct affirmation of the increasingly naked proposition driving our society: that the sexual interests of adults are more important than children and their needs. Such an utter reversal of moral priorities ought to (and in most places does) provoke disgust on the part of decent adults.
But it is also the logical result of a set of particularly destructive abstractions adopted by the court (and elite opinion) over the last generation. Pornography is not intended to express any idea. It is intended to short-circuit thought by provoking sexual desire. How do people move from lust to action? In the case of pedophiles, it helps to have a community of affirmation available, which pornographers are happy to supply in exchange for money. According to the FBI, a third of consumers of child pornography recently arrested in its Candyman sweep admitted to molesting children.
The obligatory fig leaf of art, used to cover up the ugliness of our single-minded obsession with adult sexual expression under any and all circumstances, is getting thinner and thinner. But still the Supreme Court trotted out the tired old convention that only the Supremes stand between Great Art and the philistine yahoos intent on chilling speech: "The statute proscribes the visual depiction of an idea, that of teenagers engaging in sexual activity, that is a fact of modern society and has been a theme in art and literature throughout the ages. Both themes--teenage sexual activity and the sexual abuse of children--have inspired countless literary works. William Shakespeare created the most famous pair of teenage lovers, one of whom is just 13 years of age."
My question is : how can those who form this community of affirmation then turn around and feign indignation when people act on these ideas? Don't those who think it is vital to the future of the Republic to allow access to child pornography have to bear some share of the moral responsibility for giving a cultural imprimatur to such a pathology?
A POSSIBLE COMPROMISE ON CLONING :Divided On Cloning (Dr. Charles Murtaugh 04/19/2002, Tech Central Station)
...I vehemently oppose reproductive cloning, but I support research on cloned embryos. Like many Americans, I'm unconvinced by the strict pro-life argument that an unimplanted ball of cells is a person. At the same time, I agree with the president's stance on reproductive cloning, and I would like to see the Senate prohibit the implantation of a cloned embryo into a woman's womb, without criminalizing the production of that embryo in the first place.
At first blush, this sounds like a potentially workable bright line legal standard for those of us who are concerned about the potential evils of cloning. I'd like to first hear more about how far along science is towards the ability to grow fetuses outside the human womb. But, assuming they're still a ways off, or that the legislation could be crafted to include implanting human embryos in animal and artificial wombs, I think I'd be inclined to support a law that allowed the creation of cloned embryos for research purposes but criminalized--for both doctor and patient--their implantation.
JUST 'CAUSE WE CAN'T DOESN'T MEAN WE WON'T :REVIEW : of Our Posthuman Future by Francis Fukuyama (Steven Martinovich, April 22, 2002, Enter Stage Right)
Fukuyama's arguments are convincing if you believe that the advances in biotechnology that he fears are even possible. As Colin Tudge pointed out in last year's The Impact of the Gene: From Mendel's Peas to Designer Babies, even in theory it's difficult to constructing a "better" human being. While it is technically possible to create a designer baby, nothing is impossible after all, Tudge argued that it won't likely be very feasible considering the monumental challenge of understanding the millions, perhaps even billions, of genetic factors that influence a single variable like intelligence.
Fukuyama and Tudge both agree, however, that it would be a mistake for humans to begin tinkering with their genes. It took over five million years for the modern human being to evolve and given that we can never have absolute knowledge, modifying the genes of our descendants meddles with processes we do not completely understand and may bring repercussions we may be regret decades or centuries down the line.
Mr. Martinovich (who we here at Brothers Judd refer to as "Canada's last best hope") is right to be skeptical of the likelihood that bioengineering will be able to deliver on all the promises its advocates are dangling before us. But isn't that really beside the point? When has our lack of understanding of the ultimate consequences of our actions ever deterred us in the past?
Mr. Fukuyama is correct in calling for rapid and thorough regulation of the various biotechnologies that may impact our genetic makeup. As Mr. Martinovich points out, Mr. Fukuyama has proposed a sensible dividing line between what should be banned (genetic enhancements) and what should be allowed but restricted (genetic therapy). This would allow science and medicine to search for ways to alleviate human suffering and combat disease, but restrain them from the most flagrant type of tampering with the genetic structure that has made humans what we are. That seems like a reasonable balance.
April 23, 2002
SUPPOSEDLY, CRACKLE IS THE STRICT CONSTRUCTIONIST OF THE GROUP :Inside the Beltway : Rice for brains (John McCaslin, April 23, 2002, Washington Times)
Kellyanne Conway, president and CEO of the Polling Company in Washington, is still shaking her head over the results of her new poll showing the nation is vastly unaware of who--or even how many--justices sit on the United States Supreme Court.
Nearly two-thirds of 800 Americans polled could not name a single member of the current court and just 32 percent knew that there are nine justices. Only five persons in the entire survey could name all nine.
In contrast, a whopping majority--75 percent--knew there are three Rice Krispies characters and 66 percent proudly cited their names: Snap, Crackle and Pop.
And people wonder why I want to restrict the franchise....
DOES ANYONE EDIT THE TIMES ANYMORE? :The Angry People (Paul Krugman, April 23, 2002, NY
A slightly left-of-center candidate runs for president. In a rational world he would win easily. After all, his party has been running the country, with great success: unemployment is down, economic growth has accelerated, the sense of malaise that prevailed under the previous administration has evaporated.
But everything goes wrong. His moderation becomes a liability; denouncing the candidate's pro-market stance, left-wing candidates--who have no chance of winning, but are engaged in politics as theater--draw off crucial support. The candidate, though by every indication a very good human being, is not a natural campaigner; he has, say critics, "a professorial style" that seems "condescending and humorless" to many voters. Above all, there is apathy and complacency among moderates; they take it for granted that he will win, or that in any case the election will make little difference.
The result is a stunning victory for the hard right. It's by and large a tolerant, open-minded country; but there is a hard core, maybe 20 percent of the electorate, that is deeply angry even in good times. And owing to the peculiarities of the electoral system, this right-wing minority prevails even though more people actually cast their votes for the moderate left.
If all this sounds like a post-mortem on the Gore campaign in 2000, that's intentional. But I'm actually describing Sunday's shocking election in France, in which the current prime minister, Lionel Jospin, placed third, behind the rabid rightist Jean-Marie Le Pen.
Apparently upset at Maureen Dowd challenging him for the title of worst columnist at the Times, Mr. Krugman today offers one of the most repellent essays by a major American journalist since Daniel Schor said, on the eve of the 1964 election, that Barry Goldwater would be leaving after the vote for a vacation to Germany to visit Hitler's retreat at Berchtesgarden. In his eagerness to compare George W. Bush to a fascist, Mr. Krugman has--one assumes merely idiotically rather than maliciouslly--compared Al Gore to a man,
Lionel Jospin, who was a secret communist operative during the Cold War. Al Gore is many things, but I have no doubt of his patriotism. Comparing him to a traitor is beneath contempt, but not, unfortunately, beneath the despicable Mr. Krugman
WHAT JEWS? :Why Europe Sides Against the Jews : Why do so many Europeans reject America's view of the Middle East? (Michael Elliot, Apr. 22, 2002, TIME)
[U]ndeniably, past European anti-Semitism has had a bitter effect on present European attitudes. Put at its crudest, most Europeans know very few Jews; they killed too many of them. In America there is a thriving community for whom the survival of Israel is a passionate commitment; in Europe there isn't. No number of school lessons or church sermons about the Holocaust can overcome that humdrum truth.
Given the extermination of Europe's Jews during WWII and the explosive growth of Europe's Arab population since, we have to recognize that American and European interests in the Middle East are divergent. Europe seems destined to grow more and more hostile to Israel and supportive of even the worst excesses of Arab regimes as a simple function of trying to satisfy their own blocks of Arab voters and if they are going to be allied with the Arabs instead of Israel, it's time to question whether they are our allies any more.
SAVAGE GARDEN :Bones Reveal Some Truth in 'Noble Savage Myth' (Jack Lucentini, April 15, 2002, The Washington Post)
A romantic-sounding notion dating back more than 200 years has it that people in prehistory, such as Native Americans, lived in peace and harmony.
Then "civilization" showed up, sowing violence and discord. Some see this claim as naive. It even has a derisive nickname, the "noble savage myth."
But new research seems to suggest the "myth" contains at least some truth. Researchers examined thousands of Native American skeletons and found that those from after Christopher Columbus landed in the New World showed a rate of traumatic injuries more than 50 percent higher than those from before the Europeans arrived. [...]
Walker and colleagues examined the skeletons of 3,375 pre-Columbian and 1,165 post-Columbian Native Americans, from archaeological sites throughout North and Central America.
The North Americans came mostly from the coasts and the Great Lakes region, Walker said.
Pre-Columbian skeletons showed an 11 percent incidence of traumatic injuries, he said, compared with almost 17 percent for the post-Columbians.
Walker said his findings surprised him. "I wasn't really expecting it," he said. Yet it undeniably suggests violence, he added. Most of the increase consisted of head injuries in young males, "which conforms pretty closely to the pattern you see today in homicides."
The researchers defined "traumatic injury" as anything leaving a mark on the skeleton, such as a skull fracture, a healed broken arm, or an embedded arrow point or bullet.
Walker said that although part of the increased injury rate doubtless stems from violence by whites themselves, it probably reflects mostly native-on-native violence. "In a lot of cases, such as in California, there weren't that many Europeans around -- just a few priests, and thousands of Indians," he said.
Is it just me, or does that 11% pre-European rate seem pretty high for a people you're claiming were essentially peaceful? And if we Europeans were as violent towards the natives as we're told we were, wouldn't that increase possibly be almost entirely from whites killing natives rather than just some corruption of their Edenic existence? And, most importantly, what would a baseline rate for traumatic injury be? How does that 11% rate compare to American society today or white society at the time?
GROWING A SOCIETY :Seeing Around Corners : The new science of artificial societies suggests that real ones are both more predictable and more surprising than we thought. Growing long-vanished civilizations and modern-day genocides on computers will probably never enable us to foresee the future in detail--but we might learn to anticipate the kinds of events that lie ahead, and where to look for interventions that might work (Jonathan Rauch, April 2002, Atlantic Monthly)
Growing artificial societies on computers--in silico, so to speak--requires quite a lot of computing power and, still more important, some sophisticated
modern programming languages, so the ability to do it is of recent vintage. Moreover, artificial societies do not belong to any one academic discipline, and their roots are, accordingly, difficult to trace. Clearly, however, one pioneer is Thomas C. Schelling, an economist who created a simple artificial neighborhood a generation ago.
Today Schelling is eighty years old. He looks younger than his age and is still active as an academic economist, currently at the University of Maryland. He and his wife, Alice, live in a light-filled house in Bethesda, Maryland, where I went to see him one day not long ago. Schelling is of medium height and slender, with a full head of iron-gray hair, big clear-framed eyeglasses, and a mild, soft-spoken manner. Unlike most other economists I've dealt with, Schelling customarily thinks about everyday questions of collective organization and disorganization, such as lunchroom seating and traffic jams. He tends to notice the ways in which complicated social patterns can emerge even when individual people are following very simple rules, and how those patterns can suddenly shift or even reverse as though of their own accord. Years ago, when he taught in a second-floor classroom at Harvard, he noticed that both of the building's two narrow stairwells--one at the front of the building, the other at the rear--were jammed during breaks with students laboriously jostling past one another in both directions. As an experiment, one day he asked his 10:00 A.M. class to begin taking the front stairway up and the back one down. "It took about three days," Schelling told me, "before the nine o'clock class learned you should always come up the front stairs and the eleven o'clock class always came down the back stairs"--without, so far as Schelling knew, any explicit instruction from the ten o'clock class. "I think they just forced the accommodation by changing the traffic pattern," Schelling said.
In the 1960s he grew interested in segregated neighborhoods. It was easy in America, he noticed, to find neighborhoods that were mostly or entirely black or white, and correspondingly difficult to find neighborhoods where neither race made up more than, say, three fourths of the total. "The distribution," he wrote in 1971, "is so U-shaped that it is virtually a choice of two extremes." That might, of course, have been a result of widespread racism, but Schelling suspected otherwise. "I had an intuition," he told me, "that you could get a lot more segregation than would be expected if you put people together and just let them interact."
One day in the late 1960s, on a flight from Chicago to Boston, he found himself with nothing to read and began doodling with pencil and paper. He drew a straight line and then "populated" it with Xs and Os. Then he decreed that each X and O wanted at least two of its six nearest neighbors to be of its own kind, and he began moving them around in ways that would make more of them content with their neighborhood. "It was slow going," he told me, "but by the time I got off the plane in Boston, I knew the results were interesting." When he got home, he and his eldest son, a coin collector, set out copper and zinc pennies (the latter were wartime relics) on a grid that resembled a checkerboard. "We'd look around and find a penny that wanted to move and figure out where it wanted to move to," he said. "I kept getting results that I found quite striking." [...]
Schelling's model implied that even the simplest of societies could produce outcomes that were simultaneously orderly and unintended: outcomes that were in no sense accidental, but also in no sense deliberate. "The interplay of individual choices, where unorganized segregation is concerned, is a complex system with collective results that bear no close relation to the individual intent," he wrote in 1969. In other words, even in this extremely crude little world, knowing individuals' intent does not allow you to foresee the social outcome, and knowing the social outcome does not give you an accurate picture of individuals' intent. Furthermore, the godlike outside observer--Schelling, or me, or you--is no more able to foresee what will happen than are the agents themselves. The only way to discover what pattern, if any, will emerge from a given set of rules and a particular starting point is to move the pennies around and watch the results.
If segregation arises naturally but unintentionally in this manner, the question for integrationists becomes : is it possible to change human nature so that people won't want to have even just a few neighbors who are "like" themselves? And the question for the rest of us is do we want to so change human nature?
LE PEN'S A FLUKE...LE PEN'S A FLUKE...LE PEN'S A FLUKE...LE PEN'S A FLUKE...:The anguish of being Jewish in Britain today (Norman Lebrecht, This is London)
One of the most startling trends of recent months is not the flight from Israel by casual students and fainthearted friends, but the sustained numbers of young British Jews who are leaving to make their homes in Israel. Britain, to many of its Jewish citizens, no longer feels like home.
There's been a great deal of nonsensical commentary since Sunday about how little the success of Le Pen in the French elections means. There are a variety of motives behind the minimization of the Le Pen phenomenon : Francophilia, Europhilia, fear of honestly addressing the issues surrounding an aging native population and a burgeoning immigrant population; denial about human nature; etc.. The folks spinning these fanciful excuses are having to ignore mounting evidence of a virulent hatred of ethnic minorities throughout Europe. Mr. Lebrecht's essay is a chilling reminder that even in Britain the tension is mounting.
SCIENCE MEET POLITICAL SCIENCE :Meddling with Human Nature (a review of Our Posthuman Future by Francis Fukuyama) (DANIEL J. KEVLES, Scientific American)
Fukuyama fears that, even without changing human nature as such, human genetic engineering could adversely affect our mutually interactive, and hence our political, lives. In one bizarre extrapolation, he delineates the consequences should genetic engineers manage to double the human life span: elderly women would make up a disproportionately large fraction of society, and, being disinclined to support the use of force in international affairs, they would undermine the ability of democracies to defend their interests militarily. Worse, our society would be burdened with a huge cadre of people beyond reproduction or work, retarding social change while they live out an additional three score and 10 years in nursing homes.
But the quotidian consequences of human genetic engineering worry Fukuyama less than its potential threat to human nature, because human nature is fundamental to our notions of justice, morality and any "meaningful definition" of human rights. He contends, for example, that human rights based on our inclination to protect kin rather than strangers provide "a more solid foundation for political order" than those that--so he seems to imply--obligate us to care for, say, welfare mothers or the impoverished peoples in the Third World.
A stable, democratic order also requires respect for an inviolable human dignity, what Fukuyama dubs an essential "Factor X" that distinguishes us from all other animals. Here he seems to contradict himself. On the one hand, he extrapolates from evolutionary studies of animal behavior to argue for the existence of a human nature. On the other, he insists, drawing on Nietzsche, whom he finds a far better guide than today's legions of bioethicists, that we must not admit "a continuum of gradations between human and nonhuman." Such an admission would imply a comparable continuum within the human species and would constitute a justification of undemocratic social ordering, a "liberation of the strong from the constraints that a belief in either God or Nature had placed on them."
Fukuyama is comparably concerned with the potential impact of biotechnology on ineffable human qualities such as individuality, ambition and genius. He finds disturbing harbingers of the direction human genetic modification might take in the uses now being made of the neuropharmacological drugs Prozac and Ritalin. He says, in a seeming caricature of these uses, that the former is often prescribed for depressed women lacking in self-esteem; the latter, largely for young boys who don't want to sit still in class. In his view, the two drugs together are nudging the two sexes "toward that androgynous median personality, self-satisfied and socially compliant, that is the current politically correct outcome in American society." More such drugs are sure to come, he warns, all of them with profound political implications, because they will make deviant behavior into a pathology meriting chemical restoration to a conformist norm.
Scientists like to portray themselves and their work as totally value neutral. Witness Mr. Kevles's seeming obliviousness to the potential impact that massive demographic changes may have on our politics. Let's try to break it down into scientific terms to make the implications a little easier for him to follow.
Suppose that we call our current society "c", call the cohort of retired people "a", and call everyone else "b". So today's America can be rendered as follows : a + b = c. Mr. Kevles apparently belies that it will also be the case that (a x 2) + b = c. That may be the case, but it certainly seems fair to doubt it.
OH, WHAT A LUCKY MAN... :The emperor is still nekkid : Bush Two has all the gravitas of, say, John Belushi. (Jack Lessenberry 4/17/2002, Metro Times)
The truth is that George Bush is a chucklehead. Was then; is now. If I visited Fort Knox and a huge gold ingot fell on my head, it would not make me a mining engineer. Son Of Bush had the extreme good fortune to have wandered onstage for the most convenient war in history, one in which his officials, if we let them, can justify for years any atrocity by claiming there are shadowy "terrorists" under the bed.
Bush Minor, meanwhile, really wants to please his moneyed friends, by doing things like opening national wildlife refuges for oil drilling and then photo-oping on TV.
Ronald Reagan was much the same. However, we mostly deserved him. We really elected him.
It seems like George W. Bush is destined to benefit from the same consistent underestimation on the Left and obtuse sense of disappointment on the Right that followed Ronald Reagan throughout his public career. If you read the current crop of stories--with folks like Maureen Dowd saying Bush is in over his head and William Kristol saying he's making the mistake of listening to a cabal of leftist advisors--you get a wicked sense of deja vu. Reagan was attacked on the Right for not cutting government enough, compromising on taxes, not being sufficiently anti-abortion, nation-building in Lebanon, not pursuing the Cold War vigorously enough, etc.. W is being attacked for a lack of purity on CFR, trade, and Israel, for nation-building in Afghanistan, and for not pursuing the war on terrorism vigorously enough.
There's something to those criticisms in both cases, but taken together you can see the extent to which they represent conservatives shrieking : "I'm holier than thou!" They are the easy complaints of people without power demanding that those in power wield it absolutely, without compromise. But the world, or at least America, doesn't work that way. So President Bush, like President Reagan before him, is forced to cut and trim, while the true believers howl in protest. But at the end of the day, the achievements keep piling up--in Reagan's case the main achievements were tax cuts and victory in the Cold War; in W's case the tax cuts and victories in the war on terrorism.
Meanwhile, the Left can not reconcile itself to the successes of such men and so portrays them as blessed fools, stumbling along a high wire, protected from disaster only by the merciful gods. To acknowledge that Ronald Reagan played the leading role in toppling the Soviet Union would require admissions they can not make, so instead they assume he was just lucky, was in the right place at the right time. Ditto the revival of the U.S. economy after over a decade of decline. Similarly, George W. Bush was just lucky to be in office when 9-11 occurred, giving him the chance to win an easy and popular war and deflecting attention from his poor management of the economy. One notes that the other conservative presidents of the 20th Century, William Howard Taft and Calvin Coolidge, were likewise lucky enough to just happen to be in office during times of peace and plenty, not to mention the Republican Congress of 1994-2001. On the other hand, it was pure bad luck that big government liberals like Wilson, Hoover, FDR, Truman, and Johnson (and the Democratic Congress of 1932-1994) just happened to be in office during times of difficult war and economic want. It's strange how that "luck" deal works, huh?
Here's your platitude (I think it's from Branch Rickey) : Luck is the residue of design.
BEFORE PAPARAZZI = PAP :Brady's portrait of Grant : On a June afternoon in 1864, Mathew Brady invented candid portrait photography -- and changed our vision of American masculinity. (Jeff Galipeaux, April 22, 2002, Salon)
The bulk of the finest, most resonant images of the Civil War were taken by Mathew Brady and his subordinates. These images included a hasty portrait of a reluctant subject that would prove to be Brady's masterpiece and stand as one of the images essential to reshaping our national identity after the war.
In June of 1864, along with nearly 2,000 images of soldiers, fortifications, battlefields and cannons, Brady took the first important casual photograph, the first permanently recorded awkward image of an important man: The image of Ulysses S. Grant. Brady captured the image at the forward command center in City Point, Va. It is a landmark of psychological portraiture, paparazzidom and the creation of a public image -- all at once.
The hat is slightly askew. The brow is scrunched. There is that frown. There is the awkward placing of Grant's feet, the angle of his hip; the left hand clenched in a fist, the fingers of the right brushing against a tree. It's all wrong for the portrait of an illustrious leader in 1864, but disarmingly natural by today's standards. [...]
Not only do the details and composition of the City Point portrait provide a shining example of how far the fledgling art form of photography had advanced in a short time -- Brady had only perfected the wet plate colloidal process, which allowed him to make permanent negatives, in the 1850s -- it also constitutes a stunning piece of social propaganda, directed both at the Southern gentry and the Northern military establishment. In a nutshell: Death to the "gallant South," death to the sabers and the spit polish, death to the whole foppish military aesthetic.
The iconography of the photograph is as close as we can get to reading Grant's mind. It's easy to imagine an informal order accompanying the photograph: "We'll have no more glamour in the army. Leave effete uniforms to the British. No more ridiculous plumed and braided getups that make us look like lampshades. And no more trying to make the ladies swoon. None of that. Look at my face. War is not fun or particularly noble. If your hometown wants to memorialize you in bronze when this is all over, that's different. But for the images Mr. Brady and his associates are recording, we need to look like stern, tenacious, quiet Americans."
This is a cranky, get-it-over-with photograph. It doesn't lend itself to cultish adoration, as do so many of the portraits of Grant's Confederate counterpart and chief rival, Robert E. Lee. Lee was photogenic in a haunted, soulful way, but he never quite escaped the mawkish look of an actor about to walk onstage as Hamlet's father.
Grant may be plain, but he is most certainly American. To know Lee only from his portraits with the same sense of familiarity would be impossible. After you study a few images of Lee, his dignity starts to get tedious. Study a few dozen more entries into his visual history, and he no longer seems quite human. Lee is like an ethereal resident existing in the minds of a small number of well-born, proud families adept at self-delusion. He's an icon of the aristocratic South, a champion of a state of perpetual dishonesty. Forget those quaint lines about loyalty to Virginia -- loyalty to Virginia under those circumstances required a frightening suspension of disbelief, and an out-and-out denial of modernity. But yes indeed, Lee gave a good still.
In his appearance on Booknotes the other night, Gordon S. Wood talked about how lucky we were that George Washington was the kind of man that he was, because almost unique among military men up to that time, he expected no political power in exchange for his service to his country. He also said that, paradoxically, that gave Washington tremendous power, because the men around him knew that he could be trusted with that power.
These days, we've an unfortunate image of Grant as a drunkard, a corrupt president and a cloddish general, who pales in comparison to his contemporaries--Lee as a general; Lincoln as a president. There's an excellent biography of Grant by Geoffrey Perret, that serves as a corrective to this view. The Grant who emerges from its pages is one of the more decent and self-effacing men ever to become president and it's easy to see why his president and his countrymen trusted him with power.
The more you know about Grant the more you like him. After reading Mr. Galipeaux's essay, I have to figure out how to get the wife to let me hang this photograph somewhere in the house.
April 22, 2002
HYPOCRITICAL HIPPOCRATICS :Deadly Medicine : The real problem with physician-assisted suicide (Jacob Sullum, April 19, 2002, Reason)
As the iconoclastic psychiatrist Thomas Szasz has observed, physician-assisted suicide is simultaneously a power grab and an evasion of moral responsibility. Doctors assert their authority over the fundamental question of existence, while patients and their families banish doubt by trusting the experts.
"The physician who performs physician-assisted suicide does not merely render a clinical judgment and perform a medical intervention; he also renders a moral judgment and performs a social ritual," Szasz writes in his 1999 book Fatal Freedom: The Ethics and Politics of Suicide. "He legitimizes [physician-assisted suicide] as not irrational and therefore not wrong...and he defines prescribing a lethal drug as a therapeutic response to a medical crisis rather than as a pseudomedical evasion of drug prohibition."[...]
It's hardly surprising...that federal regulators would look askance at doctors who prescribe drugs for the avowed purpose of killing people, a practice that's expressly prohibited by the Hippocratic Oath. Yet the government itself has encouraged this dodge by interfering in a quintessentially private matter that should be left to each individual's conscience. "Dying voluntarily is a choice intrinsic to human existence," writes Szasz. "It is our ultimate, fatal freedom....If we delegate responsibility for making these choices to medical professionals, we take a giant step toward forfeiting our basic freedoms."
Suicide does lie outside the proper realm of medicine. It also lies outside the proper realm of government.
On this much I agree with Mr. Sullum, it is totally wrong for doctors to assist patients who want to be killed. Physicians only mission should be healing; anything else clouds their mission and is extraordinarily dangerous.
If people want to kill themselves, let them summon the courage and do so. If they insist on implicating others in the killing and society decides to allow this travesty, let's have excutioners do it, professional killers, not people who are sworn to preserve life.
N. B. : Here's a good discussion of why assisted-suicide is inconsistent with libertarian principles.
WHEN TWO OF THREE AMERICANS WANT SOMETHING, THEY GET IT :The people vs. cloning (Robert Novak, April 22, 2002, Chicago Sun-Times)
As the biotech lobby mobilizes in Washington this week to fight anti-human cloning legislation, a new national poll shows the industry's Senate Democratic allies on a course fraught with political danger. The survey of 800 adults by The Polling Co. shows 63 percent totally agree with President Bush's strong anti-cloning statement and only 29 percent disagree.
Behind the 63 percent approval of Bush's position is a potential reverse gender gap for Democrats, with 68 percent of women agreeing with the president compared with 53 percent of men. African Americans were especially strong against cloning (65 percent). A statement modeled after Daschle's position, to permit cloning for medical research, scored 26 percent agreement overall.
It's sort of an article of faith amongst the clonophiles that the medical promise of bioengineering is so great that only us whacko cultural conservatives could possibly oppose it. This poll should sober them up a little, but it shouldn't be too surprising to anyone. Women and blacks know who's going to get cloned when it starts happening, and it's not them, it's wealthy white males.
FOOTNOTES AT THE END OF HISTORY :What's the big idea? : PoliSci 101: Carving a grand theory about the war on terror (Eric Alterman, MSNBC)
The most durable political theories about war and peace are undoubtedly those of the so-called "Realists." Part of their appeal might be in the name they've taken. After all, who wants to make policy on the basis of "unreality?" The Realists founding texts are Thucydides' history of the Peloponnesian War, Machiavelli's Prince and Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan. While the works themselves are quite distinct from one another in subject, structure and tone, they are similar in their deliberately instructive intentions. Thucydides, for instance, was writing a relatively straightforward history, but he expected it would be useful "to those who wish to have a clear understanding both of events in the past and of those in the future which will, in all human likelihood, happen again the same or similar way." The best characterization of each would be the simple message that the world is wicked, and nations had better grab whatever they can, when they can, the niceties of morality be damned. The lessons of these works were codified and enlarged in what many political scientists would concur are the three most influential works of international relations theory of the 20th century. These are E.H. Carr's "The Twenty Years' Crisis 1919-1939," (1939); Hans Morgenthau's "Politics Among Nations" (1948) and Kenneth Waltz's "Theory of International Politics" (1979). While each argument is nuanced to its own author's world view and, to some degree, particular to the moment it was written and published, each also insists upon taking the world as it is rather than as most of us would wish it to be. Reformers, democrats, idealists are considered to be dangerous fools, whose na•ve plans to better mankind inevitably make things worse. Life is nasty, brutish and short, goes the Realist critique. Deal with it. [...]
Historically, the primary challenge to Realism in Anglo-American political science has been Liberalism. Liberals have argued that the kinds of unpleasant power calculations that Realists insist upon are not necessary because life need not be as nasty and brutish as it may appear. The reasons offered have varied historically. Norman Angell offered the original version of interdependence theory in his exquisitely poorly timed 1912 best-seller, "The Great Illusion," which argued that war had now become impossible owing to the growing economic interconnectedness. Woodrow Wilson sought to impose a made-in-America morality on the rest of the world. To Wilson, as the planet's "only idealistic nation," the United States must "redeem the world by giving it peace and justice." At the same time, he noted, "We need foreign markets." Such admittances may have inspired E.H. Carr's observation that the English-speaking peoples were "masters in the art of concealing their selfish national interests in the guise of the general good."
Liberal theories of national behavior have, like Realist ones, changed and grown with the times. Some have argued that peace can be maintained by the spread of democracy, as they are unlikely to go to war with one another. Others have argued that the strengthening of disinterested international institutions like the United Nations to maintain peace and enforce international norms. The interdependence argument has also remained powerful as some political scientists have sought to combine it with elements of
Realism, and the need for a single, all-powerful "hegemon" like the United States in today's world, to use its power to maintain peace and build prosperity - and democracy - for all. [...]
During the Cold War, Americans tended to speak in Liberal terms but act in Realist - if not always rational - ones. The era's official ideology was coined by George Kennan in his famous "X" article calling for the "containment" of the Soviet Union. Kennan later argued that he meant to contain the Soviets in all kinds of peaceful, non-military ways, but his
argument became the basis of the most cynical proxy wars and costly, dangerous arms race the world has ever seen. In the last decade of the 20th century, some theorists have sought to break out of these categories by reinterpreting the movement of history in new ways. The most prominent of these are Francis Fukuyama's "End of History" and Samuel Huntington's "Clash of Civilization" arguments.
The former seeks to argue that democratic capitalism has already vanquished its significant adversaries. Challenges like the one we received on Sept. 11 should therefore be seen, as Secretary of State Powell recently proposed, as mere "footnotes" to history. They may require some unpleasant measures to be taken for a while, but we all know where this battle is going in the end. Meanwhile, Huntington's theory would appear to point in the opposite direction. We are being challenged not by a historically anomalous bandit, but by an entire civilization. Again, the remedies are opposite. One requires a police action of sorts; the other, a global crusade. Does the Bush administration have a grand political theory under girding its new war? It's hard to discern one, but perhaps the question misunderstands the nature of theory and practice. As most politicians will tell you, nations act first, and theorize about it later. The next great notion is almost certainly still awaiting its author.
Since 9-11 a number of authors whose works offer metaphorical understandings of the world have either had to defend their views or have gotten to do a victory lap. Tom Friedman (Lexus and the Olive Tree) and Benjamin Barber (Jihad vs. McWorld) sort of played both ends against the middle, so they've gotten off easy. Samuel P. Huntington (Clash of Civilizations) has benefitted from the fact that Islam and the West are obviously clashing. But poor Francis Fukuyama's choice of terms, The End of History, looks dubious on its face in the midst of this war. Perhaps though a more careful reading of these authors allows us to integrate them and come up with a worldview that helps explain what is going on.
Writing in the immediate aftermath of America's victory in the Cold War, Mr. Fukuyama sought to place the stunning defeat of communism in some historical perspective and to explain how a struggle that had seemed so evenly matched for so long could end in such a one-sided triumph. Since the rise of the British Empire, one form of liberal democratic power or another has dominated the world (first Britain, then America) for over two hundred years. The military domination has been impressive enough, but even more spectacular has been the economic success our two nations have enjoyed. During these centuries we have separately or together faced and defeated a variety of different enemies who used political/economic systems ranging from kingship to dictatorship to tribalism until finally we faced off against fascism/communism, which seemed to offer a competing system that might be capable of sustaining a long term challenge to liberal capitalist democracy. As late as the early 1980s, politicians and political scientists were still saying that the USSR was a viable and coequal nation and that it would be necessary for the US to come to some form of accommodation with communism, because it could not be defeated. Ronald Reagan came to power saying not only that this view was false but that communism was inherently unstable and all it needed was a good shove and it would collapse under its own weight. When this proved spectacularly true, it left the American Republic as the world's only a superpower, in military terms, and the simultaneous revival of the American economy demonstrated the strength of capitalism. As Mr. Fukuyama wrote, human history ended at least in the sense that it was no longer possible for reasonable people to argue about what political/economic system was superior. Liberal democratic capitalism bestrode the globe, unchallenged.
This unleashed the forces of globalization--which Mr. Friedman and Mr. Barber both wrote about--the process by which other nations have been forced to accept greater Western-style economic and political freedoms in order to compete in the increasingly integrated world economy. Mr. Friedman is more sanguine than Mr. Barber about the effects of this globalization, but both note the difficulties that must accompany it as societies are transformed.
Mr. Huntington went further and predicted that the transformative nature of this process would produce actual conflict between the West and a variety of cultures (Islam, Africa, etc.) that would resist this kind of cultural hegemony. Though his separation of cultures seems too extensive--for instance not including the Orthodox Christian world and Catholic
South America in the West seems like a mistake--the current widening conflict between the West (mainly the US and Israel) and Islam does tend to partially confirm his thesis. As is the nature of such things, the media has basically declared him the winner and Mr. Fukuyama the loser in the contest of visions. But perhaps on further review we can reconcile these various views.
As a starting point, it is worth noting that no serious observer has offered any scenario whereby Islam can actually win an all-out war with the West. None of the states of the Middle East have significant military might, as compared to virtually any Western nation, and only Pakistan has nuclear weapons (though it is not clear that even they could deliver them to their targets). Nor has anyone suggested that states organized along Islamic principles can possibly compete in the global economy. To some extent, oil revenues prevent us from seeing what a basket case Islamic economies truly are, but no one thinks that they are doing well. Even those who refuse to examine whether Islam itself is causing the problems of the Middle East place the blame on the poverty that is endemic there. It's a short step to the realization that the poverty is a function of how these societies are organized and governed. In sum, the Islamic world, as it is currently constituted is doomed.
Islam is essentially totalitarian, in that it requires that all of society be governed by Islamic laws, laws that were written some fourteen hundred years ago no less. This makes Islamic states far too inflexible to function effectively in the modern world. Looked at from this perspective, we can begin to see that we are not currently engaged in a clash of evenly matched civilizations but rather we are witnessing the death throes of a civilization that can not satisfy the economic and political demands of its own people. Mr. Fukuyama is right that the best form of governance has been determined. Mr. Friedman and Mr. Barber are right that globalization is forcing that form of government and economics on the entire world. And Mr. Huntington is right that the process will be messy. But, at the end of the day, this conflict seems more of a police action than a crusade. The forces of globalism themselves will effect the crusade, it will only be necessary for the West to clean up the messiest situations that globalism creates as it forces unwilling societies to undergo fundamental change.
History then is over, in so far as the dispute over what political system will prevail is concerned, but it should come as no surprise that not everyone has gotten the message yet. Until everyone processes this truth, what we face are more like skirmishes than clashes. Mr. Alterman quotes Colin Powell as referring to them as "footnotes"; that seems about right--they are the footnotes at the end of history.
TABLA RASA :Lying, then and now : What you can learn about a president from how he chooses to deceive you (Michael Kinsley, April 18, 2002, SLATE.COM)
If the truth was too precious to waste on politics for Bush I and a challenge to overcome for Clinton, for our current George Bush it is simply boring and uncool. Bush II administration lies are often so laughably obvious that you wonder why they bother. Until you realize: They haven't bothered. If telling the truth was less bother, they'd try that too. The characteristic Bush II form of dishonesty is to construct an alternative reality on some topic and to regard anyone who objects to it as a sniveling dweeb obsessed with "nuance," which the president of this class, I mean of the United States, has more important things to do than worry about. [...]
Alternative reality can be simple and sleek. That's one thing our Bush du jour likes about it. And simplicity is a genuine virtue in, for example, mobilizing a nation for war. It was quite effective for a while when Bush declared, after Sept. 11, that we were engaged in a Manichaean struggle with a single overarching enemy called terrorism. If anyone had told him it might be more complicated than that, Bush would have smelled nuance and sent the fellow on his way. But then Reality Classic intrudes. Ariel Sharon says: Hey, I'm fighting an all-out war against terrorism, too. You got a problem with that? And the answer is, yes, we do. But it's hard to say what our problem is without admitting that we're not engaged in a Manichaean
struggle with terrorism. American interests and values are more varied and complicated than that. Another inconvenience of traditional reality is that there can only be one of them at a time. There is no such limit on alternative realities. You can stash them around the house for use as needed, like six-packs in the good old days. So Bush can have one reality where battling terrorism is paramount and another reality where Israel must negotiate and compromise with the sponsors of suicide bombers. And if he can really juggle all these realities in his head without their bumping up against each other (in a condition known as "irony"), maybe it doesn't even count as dishonest.
It seems hard to believe that someone as supposedly intelligent as Michael Kinsley can really be this confused, but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume it is merely confusion rather than disingenuousness. He at least pretends here not to be able to reconcile the fact that we can consider Yassar Arafat evil yet still deal with him. There are of course plenty of evil nations that we have dealt with--the USSR, China, North Korea, Cuba, France, etc.--and I don't recall Mr. Kinsley getting too worked up about it.
If Arafat can bring peace between Israel and Palestine, we'll deal with him. If he can't, he'll be dealt with. (That latter is actually the point at which Mr. Sharon will declare all out war. Israel right now is engaged in little more than a police action.) Regardless of which happens, Arafat will still be an evil man.
MOTH BALLED :REVIEW : Of Moths And Men: Intrigue, Tragedy and the Peppered Moth by Judith Hooper (Marek Kohn, This is London)
As every schoolchild knows, given a passing acquaintance with the inside of the biology lab, peppered moths are nature's way of telling us Darwin was right. Originally, these insects were all pale, but then, as the Victorian era began, black specimens began to appear. By the end of the 19th century, they had replaced the pale forms in the smoke-blackened industrial regions of England; while the pale kind held on in the countryside. In the 1950s, the Oxford researcher Bernard Kettlewell showed that birds picked out the dark ones on tree trunks in unpolluted areas, but ate more of the pale kind in urban areas where trunks were bare of lichen.
With the aid of the Clean Air Acts and the decline of heavy industry, nature then completed the story. Pollution decreased, and so did the black moths. The textbooks celebrated this example of "evolution in action".
Evolutionists had a trophy case-study that they could brandish at creationists, and at other scientists who considered them inferior because they could only interpret things that had already happened. For once in nature, the story was simple and the case was closed.
As with human celebrities, though, the moths look chequered in hindsight. Revisionists have pointed out anomalies in the evidence, such as the prevalence of black moths in unpolluted East Anglia. They have scrutinised the design of Kettlewell's experiments and found them sadly wanting - not least because the moths don't actually sit on tree trunks during daytime. They have failed to reproduce his neat results, and some believe that these were too neat: sloppy procedure may have allowed unconscious bias to massage the figures. Some scientists now feel that the peppered moth should be suspended from the textbooks. For creationists, as Judith Hooper observes in this absorbing account, it is like capturing the enemy flag.
As an evolution skeptic, it's always seemed peculiar to me that the evolutionists made such a big deal out of these moths. For one thing, the mere fact that everyone had to seize the same dubious example just served to prove how sketchy the evidence for evolution truly is. For another, even if the most extravagant claims for this study were true they'd not reveal much in the way of evolution taking place. We'd assume that the moths that were easiest to see would tend to get eaten first, so why be surprised that there are at any given moment more of the kind that are hard to see? Even worse, it seems to be a case where human action was causing the change in the population. No reasonable skeptic doubts that Man can make changes within a species via breeding; give me a German Shepard today and in a few thousand years I'll give you back his poodle-like descendants--big deal. Most importantly though, this greatest of all evolution observations only alleged that a moth changed colors, not that it had truly evolved in any significant way, not that it had changed species or in any way had its basic mothness change.
But despite all these problems, the true believers in Darwinism clung to these poor damn moths like drowning men to chunks of flotsam. Darwinists whip out those moths to fend off criticism in precisely the same way that Van Helsing kept Dracula at bay with a crucifix. It gives me indescribable pleasure to read that the evidence was apparently falsified to begin with. Judith Hopper's right--it is very much like being twelve again and capturing the enemy flag.
THE GREAT DIVIDE :Carnegie Mellon experiment reveals impact of fear, anger on American perceptions of terrorism (Teresa Thomas, 9-Apr-2002, Carnegie Mellon University)
A national field experiment by Carnegie Mellon University scientists on American emotions and perceptions of the risk of terrorist threats following September 11 reveals a national psyche influenced in opposite ways by fear and anger. [...]
The Carnegie Mellon team drew four major conclusions from the study:
* 1) Americans who experience anger are more optimistic about the future, less likely to take precautionary actions, and more likely to favor aggressive policy responses than those who experience fear. [...]
* 3) Men experience more anger about terrorism than women, leading them to be more optimistic than women. [...]
The Carnegie Mellon study also discovered that males (ages 13-88) were less pessimistic about risks than were females-because they were angrier. "The striking difference in risk perception between males and females is due to males experiencing greater anger and females greater fear," Lerner said.
Here, in microcosm, we see a central theory of the Brothers Judd being played out. It is our contention that all of human existence can be explained by the competing desires for freedom or security. And we have hypothesized that the gender gap we see in politics is largely a function of the fact that men, who have less need to feel physical fear, tend to be more optimistic about their ability to fend for themselves and therefore welcome freedom, while women, historically oppressed and physically weaker, look to government to protect them and provide security. This study tends to confirm our theories.
PASSING OVER TO THE RIGHT :Tempered by violence: In the wake of Mideast bloodshed and rising anti-Semitism, many American Jews have shifted to the right (Ira Rifkin, MSNBC)
[T]he vast majority of Jews have closely identified with liberal Democratic policies, and have ever since Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal. In 2000, as in every presidential election since Roosevelt, American Jews voted overwhelmingly Democratic, giving Gore-Lieberman about 79 percent support. (Interestingly, that percentage was nearly identical to the Democratic vote in the proceeding two presidential elections, despite the presence of Orthodox Jew Joseph Lieberman on the ticket.) Certainly, it's too soon to say whether substantial numbers of American Jews will go Republican in 2004, and begin funneling more of their considerable campaign contributions toward GOP coffers. However, a poll commissioned by a Jewish Republican support group in December showed Bush's rating among Jews at 80 percent-four times what he received in the 2000 ballot - because of his backing for Israel and handling of the war on terrorism.
There are two other issues that matter in so far as the Jewish shift to the Right is concerned, one has already had an effect and one could. The first is affirmative action. This had an influence in the original neoconservative movement, which was predominantly a phenomenon of Jewish intellectuals in New York. Though mainly driven Right by their fear that the Vietnam-era Democratic Party had become an unreliable defender of Israel and Western values generally, folks like Norman Podhoretz were also concerned that establishing quotas along racial lines would tend to restrict opportunities for Jews, who tend, like Asians, to enter college in numbers far higher than their proportion of the population. The ugly truth is that for every student who has an opportunity created for him under an affirmative action regime another has an opportunity denied to him. And this burden, the negative reaction, is likely to fall disproportionately on those groups that overachieve, like Jews historically have in higher education.
The second factor that could conceivably have an influence in the coming years is school choice. It would not be at all surprising to see American Jews, who have become awfully secular over the past few decades seek to reconnect with Judaism as a belief rather than merely maintain it as a heritage. This impulse will only be strengthened as Israel becomes more embattled and as the worldwide population of Jews continues to dwindle, both of which will be the inevitable results of the Jewish demographic crisis. Had the end of the Cold War not unleashed a large-scale migration of Eastern European/Russian Jews to Israel, Jews would already be on the cusp of becoming a minority in Israel. Luckily, these immigrants, with their much higher birthrates than native Israelis, have bought Jewish Israel some time, in which to try to achieve peaceful coexistence with its neighbors. But the awful fact is that if the Palestinians simply wait out the Jews, eventually the sheer weight of the Arab population will give them control of the state of Israel. Jews will be a minority in their own land.
Meanwhile, the American Jewish population is falling too, as a result of low birthrates (the sole exception is among Orthodox Jews) and intermarriage with non-Jews. It is not too much to say that if current trends continue, Jews may eventually breed themselves out of existence.
It is, of course, impossible to predict what the precise effects of these trends may be, but it seems possible that Jews will turn inward and try to strengthen their commitment to the religion of Judaism and renew their sense of being a distinct culture. If this does occur one means of doing so may be to send their children to schools that can offer religious instruction and a focus on Jewish history and culture. This would tend to make Jewish voters supportive of school choice, of the option of sending their kids to such schools, rather than to public schools. It will also tend to make Jews more culturally conservative.
As all of these trends converge, the natural home for American Jews will be the Republican Party, with its support for Israel, for school choice, and for traditional Western culture and morality and for religion generally and its opposition to affirmative action. A transformation like this will take decades, not just years, so the 2004 presidential election seems like too early a test, but it would be very surprising if George W. Bush can't improve on that 21%
April 21, 2002
AND HIGH TIDE IS A WAYS OFF :Right-wing tide surges straight to the heart of Europe (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, 22/04/2002, Daily Telegraph)
EUROPE'S rising Right-wing tide swept into the core countries of the European Union yesterday, rocking Germany's Social Democrats and threatening France's socialist government.
Over the last two years, Austria, Italy, Denmark, Portugal, and Norway have all turned against the centre-Left consensus that had such a lock on Europe during the 1990s, opting instead for law-and-order parties promising tax cuts, deregulation, and a much tougher line on immigrants.
But the pace is now quickening as ever more radical figures build mass support, often outflanking the conventional centre-Right with wild rhetoric.
Even Holland, the model of easy-going tolerance, has fallen under the spell of Pim Fortuyn, an anti-Islamic populist who came from nowhere last month to take control of Rotterdam.
Just across the border, the Flemish Vlaams Blok far-Right movement is now the biggest party in Antwerp, much to the horror of Belgium's press and the political establishment.
In both Rotterdam and Antwerp, Muslim populations dominate very large quarters, living in uneasy truce with a white working class that has never accepted the legitimacy of mass immigration from the Third World.
Now France's industrial cities, led by Marseilles, are following suit, and the political earthquake can no longer be ignored.
Still think this is just a fluke that's peculiar to the circumstances in France?
SACRED HONOR :INTERVIEW : The American Revolution: A History by Gordon Wood (Brian Lamb, April 21, 200, C-SPAN Booknotes)
This always excellent program was especially good tonight (it's repeated at 11 EST and available online). Gordon Wood is his generation's leading historian of the American Revolution. All of this interview is interesting but towards the end there's a timely segment where he talks about how living in Europe has made him appreciate America more. He talks about how difficult a time Europeans are having integrating immigrants into their societies and how a second generation Algerian Frenchmen is simply not considered "French" and how you can become an American by accepting an ideology but you have to have certain ancestry to be accepted into other cultures.. Highly recommended.
THE SOPHISTICATED FRENCH? :Le Pen causes major poll shock (CNN, April 21, 2002)
Far-right candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen is set to have caused a huge upset in the first round of the French presidential elections by defeating Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, exit polls show.
Le Pen, who has played the anti-immigration card during the campaign, won 17 percent of the vote on Sunday, coming second to incumbent Jacques Chirac's 20 percent, Interior Ministry figures showed after 23 percent of the count.
Socialist Jospin, who has been criticised for having run a lacklustre campaign, came third with 15 percent.
Le Pen, who heads the National Front Party, will go forward to a run-off vote against the conservative Chirac on May 5, if the early predictions are correct.
One assumes we won't have to listen to any French lectures about how we don't respect human rights for awhile, huh? Looks like Moussaoui's safer here even if he's charged with a capital offense, at least he'll get a trial before being executed.
But seriously, it's easy to kick the French around over this; they richly deserve it. However, there is a serious subtext that all of us would do well to keep in mind. France (along with the rest of Western Europe) is, quite literally, dying. In just a few years there will be more people of Arab/African extraction in France than there will be classic Frenchmen. With the "French" aging and dying off and not reproducing at replacement level, they actually have a declining population. Meanwhile, they depend on immigrant labor both to do the work and to pay the taxes that prop up the massive social welfare state. Not only has this produced a large influx of Islamic immigrants, but they reproduce at astronomical levels. So you've got these intractable sources of racial, or at least ethnic and religious, tension and it is going to get worse, not better.
Admittedly, I loathe France and the French, but can anyone honestly imagine the "French", who have even tried to ban the use of American phrases, peacefully allowing themselves to become a minority in France? Sooner or later they face a choice between that prospect or taking either the rights or the lives of enough French-Arabs to retain control of the country. You'll read a lot about how little this one event matters, that Le Pen is going to lose in a landslide and may get as little as 20% of the vote...but the point is that this rabidly anti-immigrant party is indeed going to get that much. And in the coming years, as the country becomes more polarized between ethnic groups, Le Pen and similarly xenophobic parties are going to grow, not shrink.
Nor is France the only nation trapped in this demographic vise. Throughout the developed world we have dropping population rates and aging populations, while the ethnic groups we depend on for menial labor and tax revenues have almost ridiculously high fertility rates. The kind of racial animus that Le Pen feeds on will begin to rear its ugly head everywhere in the West.
The healthiest way to deal with this problem is, of course, to start reproducing ourselves at higher levels (which means making divorce harder to obtain, shifting the elderly out of nursing homes and back to their families homes, restigmatizing abortions [&maybe even recriminalizing most], making it easier for one parent to stay at home, maybe even subsidizing child birth and child rearing) while we fully integrate our societies and make sure that our immigrants share our values so that we will can be comfortable about the gradual transfer of political power to their hands. This integration will be easiest here in the U.S., where the main immigrant groups are Latinos, who are already mostly Christian and thus Westernized. But it is essential that we do everything in our power to instill the full range of Western values in these new citizens. This means English-only schooling, greater emphasis on citizenship and Great Books in schools, along with a shift towards non-public schooling where religious values can be taught, and a significant reaction against the multiculturalism that seeks to maintain native identities rather than to blend people into the American culture. I have no idea how the nations of Western Europe can integrate their mostly Muslim immigrants into their societies--the prognosis there seems grim.
Such are the implications of Le Pen's "upset", which can only have surprised those who have been ignoring the West's population implosion.
SO, ALWAYS LOOK FOR THE LIBERAL LABEL... :Label Whores : Bernard Goldberg may not be wrong about the presence of bias in the
media -- he's just wrong that it's "liberal." (Geoffrey Nunberg, 5.6.02. American Prospect)
Listening to people complain about bias in the media, you're reminded that there is more than one paranoid style in American politics. While the left has busied itself unpacking interlocking directorates and corporate ownership, the right has made a specialty of close reading, with an extraordinary attentiveness to the nuances of usage and address.
There's no better example of this than Bernard Goldberg's claim, in his bestseller Bias, that TV broadcasters "pointedly identify conservative politicians as conservatives" but rarely use the word "liberal" to describe liberals. As Goldberg explained the difference: "In the world of the Jennings and Brokaws and Rathers, conservatives are out of the mainstream and have to be identified. Liberals, on the other hand, are the mainstream and don't have to be identified."
To tell the truth, Goldberg's claim about the use of labels didn't sound that implausible to me -- not because I assumed the media were biased, but because the word liberal itself has become an embarrassment to so many people. Two decades of conservative derision have turned it into "the L-word," to the point where some Democrats won't own up to the label and others are careful to prefix it with "neo-," so as to distance themselves from those "unreconstructed" tax-and-spend stereotypes. And on the left, where suspicion of liberals has always run deep, most people have thrown the word over the side in favor of "progressive." But no one ever talks about "the C-word," and conservatives invariably wear that label proudly. So it wouldn't be surprising to find that the media, too, were more diffident about calling people liberals than about calling them conservatives.
Still, the psychology journals are full of studies that remind us just how deceptive our subjective estimations of statistical tendencies can be. And Goldberg is offering an empirical claim, even if he couldn't be troubled to back it up with any research. Granted, it isn't a simple matter to survey the language of TV newscasts, but the language of the press is readily available online. So I went to a Dialog Corporation database that has the contents of more than 20 major US dailies, including The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Miami Herald, Newsday, and the San Francisco Chronicle. I took the names of 10 well-known politicians, five liberals, and five conservatives. On the liberal side were Senators Barbara Boxer, Paul Wellstone, Tom Harkin, and Ted Kennedy, and Representative Barney Frank, all with lifetime Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) ratings greater than 90 percent. On the conservative side were Senators Trent Lott and Jesse Helms, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and Representatives Dick Armey and Tom DeLay, all with lifetime ADA averages less than 15 percent. Then I looked to see how often each of those names occurred within seven words of "liberal" or "conservative," whichever was appropriate, a test that picks out ascriptions of political views with better than 85 percent accuracy. [For more complete results click here.]
And indeed, there was a discrepancy in the frequency of labeling, but not in the way Goldberg -- or for that matter, I -- assumed. On the contrary, the average liberal legislator has a better than 30 percent greater likelihood of being given a political label than the average conservative does. The press describes Frank as a liberal two-and-a-half times as frequently as it describes Armey as a conservative. It labels Boxer almost twice as often as it labels Lott, and labels Wellstone more often than Helms. And the proportions of labeling of liberals and conservatives are virtually unchanged when you exclude opinions and letters to the editor. What's more, the discrepancy is almost as high even if you restrict the search to The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, those pillars of the "liberal press."
I've not yet read Mr. Goldberg's book, but heard Mr. Nunberg's NPR commentary and was struck immediately by his choices : Senators Barbara Boxer, Paul Wellstone, Tom Harkin, and Ted Kennedy, and Representative Barney Frank vs. Senators Trent Lott and Jesse Helms, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and Representatives Dick Armey and Tom DeLay. On the Left he's chosen mainly marginal figures (other than Kennedy) who are known for nothing except their extreme liberalism. On the Right, he's chosen the Attorney General of the United States and the House and Senate leadership. In order for the test to be fair he should have chosen people who were similarly situated on both sides. Instead, he's comparing Democrat extremists to what are, by definition, mainstream Republicans. Let's see someone rerun the numbers using Janet Reno, Tom Daschle, Joe Biden, Dick Gephardt, and whoever the Democratic whip is in the House (maybe Nancy Pelosi). If the Democrats are labeled Liberal, which must be the name for people who have the opposite view from the Conservatives on every major issue, at anywhere near the rate of their GOP counterparts I'll gnaw the "w" off of my keyboard.
This error on Mr. Nunberg's part actually illustrates one of the points I've heard Mr. Goldberg make in interviews. Liberal bias in the media is not usually intentional; it's more a matter of the fact that because most journalists are liberal they are blind to the partisan nature of their own positions. If you are a liberal yourself, Tom Daschle seems like a moderate (maybe even a conservative, if he still opposes abortion) and Trent Lott seems like a nut. So when Mr. Nunberg went looking for liberals, he looked for the real lefties, and when he went looking for conservatives he apparently chose the first five Republicans he could name. That's the kind of unintentional bias that is even more dangerous in the media than their more obvious tendencies.
UPDATE : In a response to his critics, We've Settled That -- Now We're Haggling, Mr. Nunberg writes :
[Bernard Goldberg] points out that "the Los Angeles Times ran only 98 stories about the Concerned Women for America and identified the group as conservative 28 times. But The LA Times ran more than 1,000 stories on the National Organization for Women and labeled NOW liberal only seven times."
But that's meretricious, in every sense of the term. Concerned Women of America is a self-identified conservative Christian group (it opposes, among other things, abortion, homosexual adoption, hate-crime legislation, the AmeriCorps volunteer program, and the teaching of "ill-conceived Darwinian theory" in the schools). Whereas NOW makes a point of rejecting explicitly partisan labels -- the appropriate description of the group is "feminist." To insist on labeling it as liberal would be to assume that to be pro-choice makes you by definition a liberal, by which criterion Goldberg ought to be equally indignant that the press doesn't use the "liberal" label for Christine Todd Whitman or Tom Ridge.
Of course, Ridge and Whitman were deemed unacceptable Vice-Presidential nominees precisely because of their liberalism on social issues. So it would be appropriate to label them "liberal Republicans". But even more astounding is Mr. Nunberg's comparison of Concerned Women of America to the National Organization for Women.
As far as I could find on their website, CWA nowhere identifies itself as specifically "Christian". What they do say is that their mission is to "protect and promote Biblical values among all citizens". Note Mr. Nunberg's parenthetical, where he lists the things that CWA shockingly opposes. Mr. Nunberg might equally well have listed the opposites under NOW (it opposes, among other things, any restrictions whatsoever on abortion, even partial birth abortion or gender choice abortions; limits on homosexual adoption; First Amendment protection against prosecution for thought crimes; and teaching creation along with evolution in schools). He's apparently unfamiliar with polling data that shows most Americans agree with CWA more than they do with NOW on these issues (click highlighted texts above). So, if one of these groups is more outside the mainstream than the other, isn't it the one that the public generally disagrees with? (Although I would contend that both are too partisan to be considered mainstream.)
Mr. Nunberg's blind acceptance of NOW's politically motivated assertion that it is nonpartisan is presumably just more innocent internal bias on his part, rather than an actual attempt to mislead his readers. But it is bias nonetheless. And I'm not aware of any political analyst who would seriously debate the point that organized feminism is part and parcel of modern liberalism. Liberalism contains more than feminism, but it contains all of feminism.
N.B. : For a good look at what has become of feminism (as defined by NOW), we recommend Tammy Bruce's book The New Thought Police (see Orrin's review).
CALL OFF THE DOGS, GEORGE'S STUMBLED INTO THE TRUTH, ONCE AGAIN :Back on Track? ( Robert Kagan & William Kristol, 04/29/2002, Weekly Standard)
Why were we worried about Secretary of State Colin Powell's trip to the Middle East? After all, for one crucial week, Powell ended up providing diplomatic cover for an ongoing Israeli military operation that has made significant strides against the terrorist infrastructure in the Palestinian territories. Powell kept the Europeans and Arabs and the American media bedazzled, or at least confused, while Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon carried out difficult operations against Nablus and Jenin and other hotbeds of radical terrorism, arresting hundreds of known terrorists and uncovering mountains of weaponry and suicide-bomb-making paraphernalia. When Powell left the region last week, Israeli forces remained entrenched in Ramallah and in Bethlehem, with significant forces poised on the outskirts of most other major Palestinian towns and refugee camps. Yasser Arafat remained under house arrest, with no prospects for release any time soon.
Yes, we understand that helping Israel fight its war was not exactly the point of Secretary Powell's trip. Nor, unfortunately, was this President Bush's intention when he ordered Israel to stop and withdraw two weeks ago, saying "enough is enough." But Sharon saved the Bush administration from itself by not listening. More specifically, he saved the president from his advisers, who over the past month have behaved as amateurs in this moment of high stakes diplomacy. We'd love to know which of the president's top foreign policy advisers assured him that Sharon would obey a command to withdraw, and thereby set up Bush for his weakest moment since September 11.
Now it appears the president is following his own instincts again. Once Powell had returned, Bush swung back behind Israel, declaring Sharon a "man of peace," and implicitly endorsed the continued confinement of Arafat and the continued military occupation of Ramallah and other Palestinian areas. While praising Sharon, the president returned to his condemnation of Palestinian terrorism, blaming the Arab states and Yasser Arafat for doing too little--actually, nothing--to stop it. After four weeks of moral and strategic confusion that threatened real damage to American interests, the president seems to have found his way out of the wilderness. He has rediscovered the Bush doctrine.
On the original McLaughlin Group, with Pat Buchanan, Jack Germond, Fred Barnes and Mort Kondracke,
John McLaughlin had Mort speak last all the time and then would say : Mort, you've stumbled into the truth once again. Of course, the key to the schtick was that Mort is a conservative Democrat and McLaughlin a moderate Republican, so they agreed on most issues. Mort would periodically protest that it couldn't be stumbling if he got there every time, but to no avail.
Mr. Kristol and Mr. Kagan have developed a variation on this routine, with George W. Bush cast in the role of Mort. Every few weeks they announce that Mr. Bush has abandoned everything he's ever believed in and is about to abandon the war on terror or lose in Afghanistan or stab Israel in the back. Then a few weeks later, when Mr. Bush achieves the end that they had sought, but which they'd apparently not understood him to be working towards, they portray him as having been either sideswiped by reality or compelled by the brilliance of their arguments and forced back to the proper policy. Of course, the difference between a leader and a follower is that the leader is trying to bring as many people as possible along with
him, so he sometimes has to compromise or seem to. Followers, on the other hand, can maintain ideological purity, regardless of whether that actually advances the cause or not. These followers might do well to note that, for all his perceived "stumbling", their leader keeps mysteriously getting them where they want to go.
THE WEST IS AN IDEA, NOT A PLACE:Entrepreneurialism and culture (Red Herring)
There is a bifurcation of inventiveness on the planet. A few places do all the entrepreneurial heavy lifting, the rest look on. Consider patents, one measure of a nation''s inventiveness: in 2000, the United States generated 175,983 patents and Israel 2,024--or, respectively, 633 and 355 patents per million people. By contrast, Brazil (in 1999) produced 3,219 patents, or just 19 per million people.
Finland is more entrepreneurial than France. The Chinese satellites of Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan are more entrepreneurial than mainland China, which is entrepreneurial only in parts. The United States, India, and Israel are the exemplary entrepreneurial countries.
Why? Biologists sometimes use the word culture as a verb: they speak of culturing micro?rganisms in conditions where they will thrive. By extension, how may a people culture entrepreneurialism in technology?
The policies that encourage technological innovation and its commercialization are well known. A nation must have respect for the rule of law, particularly for intellectual property rights. Its financial, labor, and telecommunications markets must not be gratuitously regulated. Its government must enthusiastically subsidize elementary, secondary, and university education. Its universities and government agencies must pursue scientific research, and there must be an established, unrestricted mechanism for "technology transfer" from such bodies to private enterprise. Its ministries of finance must strive officiously to attract--and retain--foreign investment.
Yet many countries that support such policies nevertheless are not fertile ground for innovative startups. This is because culture--to use the word in its
nonscientific sense--is a crucial element in entrepreneurialism. [...]
When I think about the most entrepreneurial cultures I have visited, I recognize certain common attributes. Such cultures possess a large, literate middle class--even if the greater part of their populations are still poor peasants (I am thinking of the contrast between India''s cities and its dusty interior). They do not admire aristocrats. They applaud adventurous risks and smile at failure. They rejoice in the free exchange of ideas, because they do not believe dissent is anarchy. They are cheerfully materialistic, whatever their spiritual traditions (I am thinking of that supermarket of religions, the United States). They are culturally diverse, or at least exposed to diverse cultures. They are hopelessly infatuated with technology. And they place an extraordinarily high value on the education of their children. I note in passing that none of these attributes are exclusively Western.
Much of American thinking--on foreign policy, economic, etc.--remains mired in a past where Europe mattered. It no longer does. It's high time for us to shift our focus away from the dying nations of Europe and toward those countries who still share Western cultural values and whose futures, therefore, look brightest. We should offer both Israel and India membership in NAFTA and offer to form some kind of NATO-style military alliance with them.
NOT THE #1 FANS OF THE MAN FROM TENNESSEE:The Selling of an Energy Policy (AL GORE, April 21, 2002, NY Times)
At a time when the world needs enduring leadership from the United States to rally all nations to join in a concerted effort to stop global warming, the administration is working overtime to block any progress whatsoever.
So tomorrow, on this Earth Day, more than ever before, we need real, forward-thinking leadership and a renewed focus on the environment. True leadership means ensuring that we take the necessary steps to leave a cleaner environment for generations to come— and that means strengthening environmental protections.
Ozone Man is back and in fine fettle, ranting about how the administration wants to cause pollution and global warming. Here's our review of his idiotic book : Earth in the Balance.
April 20, 2002
RECIPE FOR OBLIVION :Themes for an Opposition (BILL KELLER, April 20, 2002, NY Times)
[I]f the Democrats insist on speaking up, isn't it fair to ask that they have something interesting to say? I read the speeches of the various early contenders in Florida and they consisted mainly of recycled themes from campaigns past — saving Social Security (yes, they dragged out the old lockbox), protecting the environment, broadening access to health care, and Robin-Hooding the rich. These are all entirely worthy themes, perhaps more applicable now than last time around. But bold?
The last Democrat elected to the White House was propelled by some fresh thinking and a willingness to stand up to favorite constituencies on issues like welfare reform, spending discipline and free trade. For the Democrats to recapture the benumbed American electorate again, they need to say more than "We were right last time."
For instance? Here are four populist thoughts harvested from a single week of news, opportunities for Democrats to steal political advantage where the Bush administration is blinkered and vulnerable. And they require only an over-the-counter dose of that much-prescribed boldness.
Mr. Keller proceeds to outline a platform that has four planks :
*Oppose capital punishment
*Propose a flat tax
*Oppose missile defense
*Lift the Cuban embargo
Surely he jests.
Let's take them point by point :
(1) To the best of my knowledge, despite some highly publicized cases where DNA evidence got guys off of death row, capital punishment still polls very well with the voting public. And presumably anyone who would cast a vote based solely on opposition to the death penalty is already a Democrat, so it's hard to see how that one helps.
(2) Suppose the Democrats did propose a flat tax; the Republicans would just say : okay. Sure, the Democrat plan would be different than a Republican plan would be, but that's just the details work that we can fix in committee--where's the issue?
(3) Democrats have been running against Missile Defense for twenty years now with no discernible effect on either the program or public opinion. In fact, they've complained about the program so much that polls show most Americans believe we've already deployed a functional missile shield. Run around now telling them we don't and Democrats want to make sure we never will and you're going to scare the bejeezus out of a lot of folks.
(4) I'm thinking this isn't a good time to suck up to a hostile foreign leader who always appears in public in fatigues.
So, what we have here is a platform that proposes : adopting a Republican tax idea that Democrats have opposed for a century; being nicer to criminals and dictators; and opposing a defensive weapons system, that people think we already have, and the development of which creates those high tech manufacturing jobs that unions like so much. Oh yeah, that'll work.
ICH BIN EIN TELAVIVER:Israel Winning Broad Support From U.S. Right (ALISON MITCHELL, April 21, 2002, NY Times)
The seeds for the new Republican thinking were planted under Ronald Reagan when his robust anticommunism and advocacy of a strong missile defense drew to his side a group of influential, pro-Israel neoconservatives from the Democratic Party like Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, his United Nations ambassador, and Richard Perle, an assistant secretary of defense.
Mr. Reagan, who was strongly pro-Israel, also paved the way for the ascendancy of the Christian right inside the Republican Party. In what is now considered a seminal moment in the building of the Republican coalition, Mr. Reagan gave religious conservatives an honored place in the party by declaring before a convention of evangelical preachers, "You can't endorse me, but I endorse you."
The trends Mr. Reagan set in motion have only escalated, and Mr. Bush now has to contend with an even more dramatically altered Republican Party.
"For the first time in probably the history of the Republican Party a significantly pro-Israel constituency has to catch the eye of the White House," said Marshall Wittmann, who has an unusual perspective as a Jewish conservative who was once a lobbyist for the Christian Coalition.
Republicans attribute the conservative support for Israel to many factors, including the influence of largely Jewish neoconservatives and the rise of the Christian right, with its belief that the Bible mandates support for Israel. The Likud Party in Israel also built ties to conservatives. After the Sept. 11 attacks, other conservatives who embrace a hawkish foreign policy came to see a stand with Israel as important strategy in the war against terrorism.
If Jewish voters actually moved towards the Republican Party in any significant numbers it would have a transformative effect on the Democratic Party. For most of the 20th Century the Democrats had an iron grip on the Jewish vote because of its advocacy of European style socialism, which appealed to the first and second generation immigrants from Europe, many of them communists or socialists. But Jews began to turn Right in the 70s, first because of things like affirmative action, which is perversely detrimental to Jews by limiting their access too universities and such, and secondly because the GOP, especially under Reagan, seemed like a more reliable guarantor of Israeli security. Now there is such hatred of Jews in the black community, such reflexive support for Palestinians in academic and intellectual circles, and such disdain for religious belief of any kind by the Left that it is possible to imagine a future wherein Jews will be a reliable Republican voting block.
WHAT PART OF THE MONROE DOCTRINE DON'T THEY GET?:Europe plans $300m sanctions on US (Financial Times)
The European Commission has proposed slapping more than $300m of trade sanctions on politically-sensitive US products, including fruit, T-shirts, steel, guns and even billiard tables, in retaliation for US-imposed steel tariffs.
The Commission's proposal for retaliation, which would require majority backing from the 15 EU member states, is designed to "hit the US where it hurts" by targeting exports from states crucial to US president George W. Bush's re-election. These include citrus fruits from Florida, apples and pears from Washington and Oregon, and steel from Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. The plan would levy tariffs worth E377m ($336m) on US exports of those products.
George W. Bush's steel tariffs are stupid. We're a great nation and should just get rid of all our trade barriers, except with totalitarian nations, even if places like Europe use illegal protectionist tactics. Let them cheat--it just means we get stuff cheaper because their taxpayers subsidize it.
But, that said, this targeted retaliation is an attack on our internal system of government and, as such, is a virtual act of war. Get the Predators up and circling over Brussels.
GET A FREAKIN' JOB!:Treetop protest: Activists mark four years of tree-sitting (SCOTT MABEN, April 20, 2002, The Register Guard)
It was four years ago today when two young men climbed 180 feet up an old growth Douglas fir in the Willamette National Forest to block plans to log 96 acres of timber. Protesters say they've been there every day since, making it the longest continuous tree-sit against old growth logging in the Northwest.
Does it bother anyone else that these guys have essentially turned these poor trees into beasts of burden and have been riding them for four years without giving them a break? You wouldn't even do something like that to a jackass. Although in this case the jackasses are in the saddle.
GOODBYE TO ALL THAT :REVIEW : Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of The Biotechnology Revolution (2002) (Francis Fukuyama 1952-) (Grade: A)
For those of you who may not check the book reviews here on a regular basis (shame on you), we've posted our review of Francis Fukuyama's new book on biotech and bioethics. Please feel free to make comments in the discussion section here after you read the review.
N.B. : The other Brother is working on a new site that will allow comments immediately after each review, but that's a few months away.
BETTER THAN SENSURROUNDWe just had an earthquake here in NH (6:50am). Shook the whole house and even woke the wife. Cool noise too, like a train or a big truck going by.
FROM THE WAR PARTY TO THE PEACE PARTY?:Where is the Principled Opposition? (Molly Ivins, April 14, 2002, Boulder Daily Camera)
Across the length and breadth of this great land of ours, from the mountain to the prairie, from every hill and dale comes the question, "Where are the Democrats?"
They're among the missing, along with Judge Crater and Osama bin Laden. The venerable political organization, the party of Jackson and Jefferson, is not to be found in action. So this is what it's like to live in a one-party country.
Is it possible, that Democrats are frightened by the John Ashcroft-Trent Lott school of "patriotism," which holds that questioning our elected (or even not-so-elected) leaders is tantamount to disloyalty if not treason? That expressing concern about our fundamental liberties helps terrorists? For that line of attack to be treated with anything but the contempt it deserves is itself un-American, not a word I use lightly.
As if the argument is not contemptible enough, one has only to look at the performance of these same definers of "patriotism" as blind obedience when Bill Clinton was struggling to fight a war. When the Clinton administration was trying to track and kill Osama bin Laden, Republicans gratuitously dismissed the entire effort as an attempt to change the subject from Monica Lewinsky.
I think Ms Ivins is being too hard on the Democrats here. As Bob Dole noted in the 1976 Vice-Presidential debate, the wars of the 20th Century were mainly Democrat Wars. That is, Democrat presidents took the nation into WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam. The Party just doesn't have a tradition of opposition to war. Even in Vietnam, Hubert Humphrey was the war candidate as late as 1968, after the supposed Tet turning point.
So let's give the Democrats some time here. In the immediate wake of 9-11 they understandably reacted in knee-jerk fashion and supported President Bush. But as this thing drags on they'll find their voice and start to oppose the war and the administration. If nothing else, their own presidential primaries in 2004 will force the hopefuls to curry favor with the hard Left, which hates Israel specifically and Western culture generally.
The Democrats may be missing now, but they'll turn up. God help us.
MUGGING MOHANDAS :The Gandhi Nobody Knows (Richard Grenier, March 1983, Commentary)
I had the singular honor of attending an early private screening of Gandhi with an audience of invited guests from the National Council of Churches. At the end of the three-hour movie there was hardly, as they say, a dry eye in the house. When the lights came up I fell into conversation with a young woman who observed, reverently, that Gandhi's last words were "Oh, God," causing me to remark regretfully that the real Gandhi had not spoken in English, but had cried, Hai Rama! ("Oh, Rama"). Well, Rama was just Indian for God, she replied, at which I felt compelled to explain that, alas, Rama, collectively with his three half-brothers, represented the seventh reincarnation of Vishnu. The young woman, who seemed to have been under the impression that Hinduism was Christianity under another name, sensed somehow that she had fallen on an uncongenial spirit, and the conversation ended.
At a dinner party shortly afterward, a friend of mine, who had visited India many times and even gone to the trouble of learning Hindi, objected strenuously that the picture of Gandhi that emerges in the movie is grossly inaccurate, omitting, as one of many examples, that when Gandhi's wife lay dying of pneumonia and British doctors insisted that a shot of penicillin would save her, Gandhi refused to have this alien medicine injected in her body and simply let her die. (It must be noted that when Gandhi contracted malaria shortly afterward
he accepted for himself the alien medicine quinine, and that when he had appendicitis he allowed British doctors to perform on him the alien outrage of an appendectomy.) All of this produced a wistful mooing from an editor of a major newspaper and a recalcitrant, "But still...." I would prefer to explicate things more substantial than a wistful mooing, but there is little doubt it meant the editor in question felt that even if the real Mohandas K. Gandhi had been different from the Gandhi of the movie it would have been nice if he had been like the movie-Gandhi, and that presenting him in this admittedly false manner was beautiful, stirring, and perhaps socially beneficial.
This may be the funniest movie review ever written.
THE END OF THE AFFAIR? :A Tipping Point? (Robert Kuttner, 5.6.02, American Prospect)
Malcolm Gladwell has observed, in The Tipping Point, that trends sometimes build gradually but explode suddenly. As an editor of a liberal magazine, I wonder whether we are nearly at that point with the ascendance of conservatism.
Most of the rest of the essay is silly and as a cultural conservative I'm too pessimistic to harbor much hope that we are arrived at such a Tipping Point, but it is interesting to read how embattled the Left feels these days. In his fine book, The Strange Death of American Liberalism, H. W. Brands argues that conservatism is the natural political posture of America and that the Liberal epoch was a function, almost exclusively, of the Cold War. Perhaps, just perhaps, what we are seeing is not a new tipping point, but the end of a fad, the end of the liberal craze.
THEY TREATED OUR HOUSE ABOUT LIKE THEY TREATED US:Damage to White House cited (Joseph Curl, 3/19/02, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)
The General Accounting Office has found that departing Clinton aides vandalized the White House and Old Executive Office Building, stealing two historic doorknobs, scrawling obscene graffiti on walls and inflicting $14,000 worth of damage.
Those who have seen the GAO report, a preliminary document, say as many as 75 computer keyboards had to be replaced — at a cost of more than $5,000 — because Clinton staffers had broken off the W keys, a jab at George W. Bush, the winner of the bitterly contested 2000 presidential election, who was often referred to during the campaign as W.
Two historic doorknobs were stolen from the Old Executive Office Building along with a presidential seal, valued at $350, said the sources, who could not detail how the rest of the damages were inflicted. Chairs and telephone tables were broken, desks were overturned, garbage was strewn in offices and telephone lines were cut, the GAO report says, but does not, in each case, attribute the acts to vandalism.
Democrats dismissed the findings of the investigation — which they say cost about $200,000 to conduct just to find $14,000 in damages...
Hopefully someone hosed down the Oval Office before W moved in.
HEARING? WHAT HEARING?:Democrat Tries to Boot TV Cameraman From House Hearing (Jeff Johnson, April 19, 2002, CNSNews.com)
California Democratic Congresssman Henry Waxman tried unsuccessfully Thursday to have an accredited TV news photographer thrown out of a House subcommittee hearing. The hearing focused on whether to limit liability lawsuits against gun makers and Waxman, who favors gun control, insisted the cameraman was videotaping on behalf of the National Rifle Association.
The House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection was hearing testimony on the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (H.R. 2037), a bill designed to stop lawsuits against the gun industry for actions taken by criminals using their products, when Waxman challenged the presence of the television camera.
"Under the rules, the only cameras that are permitted at a hearing are from accredited representatives of the press. I understand that the camera that is now filming this hearing is owned and controlled by the National Rifle Association," Waxman (D-Calif.) charged.
Justice Brandeis once observed that sunshine is the best disinfectant for shady politics. Mr. Waxman's perturbation at the idea that footage of him and his fellow Democrats might end up in NRA ads, seems a fair indicator that they realize they have gotten themselves on the wrong side of the gun issue. Ten years ago, they would have knocked each other over in a rush to get before the cameras at a hearing like this one.
(via Ed Driscoll)
April 19, 2002
OUR SISTER, OUR HERO :Patrick L. Meehan, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and Lynne Abraham, Philadelphia District Attorney, today announced the filing of an indictment charging Nefertiti Randall, Brandon James, Quiana James, LaMech James, Crystal Gilliard and Shanta Henderson, all of Philadelphia, with Conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. ¤371, Bank Fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. ¤1344 and Aiding and Abetting, in violation of 18 U.S.C. ¤2 (United States Attorney's Office, Eastern District Pennsylvania, April 19, 2002)
"This case alerts the public that identity theft is an insidious, nationwide problem that has the potential of affecting millions of Americans," said Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham. "All Americans must monitor their personal information to guard against the potential of being ripped off. Everyone must be vigilant every day."
If convicted of the offenses, the defendants face the following maximum penalties, in addition to 5 years supervised release and forfeiture of all assets.
The case was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service. Prosecution has been assigned to Special Assistant United States Attorney Mary-Ellen Walter and Assistant
United States Attorney Amy Kurland.
Mary-Ellen Walter is the Sister Judd, fighting for Truth, Justice and the American Way.
TRUE PATRIOT LOVE IN ALL THY SONS COMMAND :Ottawa calls board of inquiry (JOHN WARD, April 18, 2002 , The Canadian Press)
The dead were identified as: Sgt. Marc Leger of Lancaster, Ont.; Cpl. Ainsworth Dyer of Montreal; Pte. Richard Green of Mill's Cove, N.S.; and Pte. Nathan Smith of Tatamagouche, N.S.
In Washington, Pentagon officials said it appeared the pilot did not know he was flying over an area restricted to training, and muzzle flashes from the exercise below made him think he was under attack. The pilot sought permission to bomb and was told to mark the target but not fire, a senior Pentagon official said. On a second fly-around, after reporting he was taking ground fire, he dropped the bomb in what he thought was self-defence.
The Brothers Judd would like to express our condolences to our Canadian neighbors for their losses in Afghanistan this week and our sorrow at the tragic American error that appears to have been responsible.
IT TAKES A TOUGH MAN TO MAKE A TASTY CHICKEN :Who Was General Tso And Why Are We Eating His Chicken? (Michael Browning, April 17, 2002, The Washington Post)
Each evening, thousands of Americans drift into Chinese restaurants or, if they are too lazy to go out, pick up the phone and order one of the most popular dishes on the menu: General Tso's Chicken, a sugary-spicy melange of dark-meat tidbits, deep-fried then fired up with ginger, garlic, sesame oil, scallions and hot chili peppers.
Not one in 10,000 knows who General Tso (most commonly pronounced "sow") was, nor what terrible times he lived through, nor the dark massacres that distinguished his baleful, belligerent career. Setting their chopsticks aside, patting their stomachs, the satisfied diners spare scarcely a thought for General Tso, except to imagine that he must have been a great connoisseur of hot stir-fried chicken.
Who was he?
General Tso Tsungtang, or as his name is spelled in modern Pinyin, Zuo Zongtang, was born on Nov. 10, 1812, and died on Sept. 5, 1885. He was a frighteningly gifted military leader during the waning of the Qing dynasty, a figure perhaps the Chinese equivalent of the American Civil War commander William Tecumseh Sherman. He served with brilliant distinction during China's greatest civil war, the 14-year-long Taiping Rebellion, which claimed millions of lives.
Tso was utterly ruthless. He smashed the Taiping rebels in four provinces, put down an unrelated revolt called the Nian Rebellion, then marched west and reconquered Chinese Turkestan from Muslim rebels.
Arthur W. Hummel devotes five double-columned pages to the general in the monumental 1944 "Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period (1644-1912)" published by the Library of Congress.
Tso emerges from several sources as a self-made man, born in Hunan province, a hilly hot-tempered heartland, whose cuisine rivals that of Sichuan for sheer firepower. (While Sichuan food is hot right up front, in the mouth, in your face; Hunanese cuisine tends to build up inside you, like a slow charcoal fire, until you feel as though your belly is filled with burning coals.)
As a young man Tso flunked the official court exams three times, a terrible disgrace. He returned home, married and devoted himself to practical studies, like agriculture and geography. He took up silkworm farming and tea farming and chose a gentle sobriquet, calling himself "The Husbandman of the River Hsiang." Like Sherman, stuck teaching at a military academy in Louisiana on the eve of the Civil War, he seemed washed up.
He was 38 when the Taiping Rebellion broke out in 1850. For the rest of his life, Tso would wield the sword, becoming one of the most remarkably successful military commanders in Chinese history.
hmmmmmmmmmmm--General Tso's Chicken--hmmmmmmmmmmm
GOTTA PAY THE PIPER, IF YOU WANT TO DANCE:Wealth Versus Health (Paul Krugman, 4/19/02, NY Times)
[L]ast week Thomas Scully defied a subpoena from the Small Business Committee.
Who? What? If you are an American over 65, or are considering becoming one, you should pay more attention. Mr. Scully, you see, is the director of Medicare and Medicaid. The specific issue on which he refused to testify--payments to providers of portable X-ray machines--sounds arcane. But the real story here is the collision between tax-cut myths and fiscal reality, with Medicare caught in the middle.
The background is the recent surge in health-care expenses. During the 1990's the rise of H.M.O.'s put a squeeze on medical bills; now there is nothing left to squeeze. So H.M.O.'s are sharply increasing their payments to health-care providers, and the federal programs overseen by Mr. Scully are under pressure to follow suit. Since these programs cost more than national defense, we're talking about a lot of money here.
Still, if medical care is a priority, which it surely is for the voters, why doesn't the government simply provide the necessary resources? You already know the answer: it's hard to reconcile realistic spending increases with plans for more tax cuts.
This being a Paul Krugman column it quickly descends into silly class warfare rhetoric, but the basic point remains germane : we have a choice between cutting our tax burden or paying for the health care of retirees. We can't do both and if we chose to do the latter, we're actually going to have to raise not lower the former.
Health care costs are going to keep going higher for one reason in particular, more and more voters are going to be seniors and they want you and me to pay for their health care, instead of paying for it themselves. And why not? If we had the political power we'd all make other people pay for our stuff. So with seniors wielding ever larger voting majorities the rest of us are pretty much screwed.
Now it's always interesting to me that people will complain about how bans on child pornography, military tribunals for terrorists, x-ray machines at airports, and cameras on stop lights represent giant steps towards a totalitarian state, but the prospect of a truly confiscatory tax regime doesn't apparently bother anyone other than conservative Republicans much. Maybe it is just too speculative at this point for most people to take it seriously. But by the time it becomes reality it will be too late to fix it. We're nearly at the end of our window of opportunity to deal with these entitlements problems.
The 1990s were the ideal time to act. Having just won the fifty year long Cold War, the U.S. enjoyed an enormous peace dividend and a unique opportunity to scale back the size of the Federal government, which had grown absurdly bloated as a series of presidents tried buying off voters with domestic spending in exchange for their approval of military spending. Instead, the disastrous decision of the elder George Bush to raise taxes rather than cut spending (understandable to a degree since he was confronted by a Democrat Congress) resulted in his ouster and left us with a president so wholly consumed by self-interest that he made no effort to reform entitlements and shrink government, until forced to by the Republican Congress that came to power in 1994. In fact, had Bill Clinton had his way in '93-94 we would be struggling under the weight of an even worse entitlement crisis, in the form of his Health Care Plan.
What makes the Clinton years such a tragic waste is that genuine entitlement reform would have been much easier for a Democrat than it will ever be for a Republican. In the same way that Richard Nixon received a free pass when he sought rapproachment with Red China, because he had already proven his anti-communist bona fides, Bill Clinton would have received some benefit of the doubt from the Left had he tried cutting wasteful government programs and putting Social Security and Medicare on sounder financial footing. No Republican can expect the same. For them awaits the kind of "robbing the poor" nonsense that Mr. Krugman regularly spews.
The candidacy of George W. Bush provided hope to those who take the looming fiscal crisis seriously. The rather meager first steps towards privatizing Social Security that he ran on at least offered a chance to set ourselves on the right path. But then Jim Jeffords swtched parties and the opportunity to begin reforming Social Security disappeared along with the Republican majority in the Senate.
With every passing year it becomes less and less likely that we will undertake the radical reforms that the system so desperately requires. What might have been possible while the Baby Boomers were still gainfully employed and paying taxes will become impossible as they retire and start living off the government teat. It surely doesn't improve the prospects for reform that influential columnists like Mr. Krugman are poised to holler about Republican mean-spiritedness towards the "poor"and favoritism towards the "wealthy" should they have the temerity to tackle the task.
NO HISPANICS NEED APPLY :Color War (Peter Beinart, 04.18.02, New Republic)
Whether or not Senate Democrats should be delaying [Miguel Estrada's] confirmation hearings, it has nothing to do with race. In fact, the Democrats have been explicit about their strategy regarding Bush's nominees. They're holding hearings on the moderate nominees first to encourage Bush to nominate more centrists in the future. And they're generally delaying votes on the most conservative ones. Since by all accounts Estrada is very conservative, his treatment (whether fair or not) is entirely color-blind. But that didn't stop Republican Senators Lott, Santorum, Domenici, and Orrin Hatch from calling the Democrats racist.
I assume that Peter Beinart must have some political savvy, he is after all the editor of one of the most important political journals of the Left, the estimable New Republic. But if he does understand politics you couldn't tell it from this either obtuse or dishonest column.
If by "racist" those Republican Senators meant that Democrats dislike Latinos for their race or view them as inferior then the charge would be unfair. But it is of course the case that Miguel Estrada is being treated differently because of the confluence of his conservative views with his ethnicity. The Democrats, as is well known throughout Washington, presumably even in the offices of the New Republic, are terrified of any conservative jurist who happens to be a member of what they consider their captive special interest groups : blacks, Latinos, women, etc. The reason is straightforward enough--and one suspects that had Mr. Beinart bothered to do some reporting he could have found a number of Democratic operatives who would have acknowledged it--when George W. Bush appoints folks to the Supreme Court, the Democrats want to be able to use the same contemptible tactics of personal destruction that they've perfected in the Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas and Charles Pickering nominations, but this will be made problematic if they have to smear a minority.
The Bork and Thomas nominations are instructive here. Robert Bork, despite being the best qualified nominee of his generation, was easily disposed of by tarring him as a right wing whacko but Clarence Thomas, who even Republicans would acknowledge was a little light in the resume department, was confirmed despite serious questions being raised as to whether he made sexually inappropriate comments to a subordinate (ah...remember back when we found stuff like that offensive? Back before Bill Clinton?). Democrats could say any absurd and disgusting thing they wanted about Bork--a straight, white, male, Christian--without any risk of alienating a single constituent. But when it came time to go hammer and tongs against Clarence Thomas they were constrained (somewhat) by nervousness over attacking a black man. The campaign against Judge Thomas ended, for all intents and purposes, when he accused Democrats of conducting a "high-tech lynching". You could practically hear Joe Biden's butt pucker in fear at those words.
So Democrats have made the decision, politically wise even if morally indefensible, to fight all conservative minority nominees to lower courts in the hope that they can prevent any more people of color from gaining the experience that would make them more qualified for appointment to the Court. They figure, probably correctly, that they can get away with nearly anything in this low profile nomination battles, but that in the national spotlight of a Supreme Court confirmation proceeding that they would have to restrain themselves. If they can throttle the Miguel Estradas of America in their cribs, Democrats hope that will never have to face the full grown monster, their worst nightmare : a conservative Latino with impressive credentials.
You can argue, as Mr. Beinart wishes too, that the problem with Mr. Estrada is his politics, not his racial profile. But you can't ignore the fact that the reason there's an urgency in Democratic circles over these kinds of nominations is because of the ethnicity of the nominee. That may not qualify as racism, merely treating someone differently because of their race without any personal animus entering into the equation, but since Democrats argue the opposite where other forms of racial profiling are concerned, it seems only fair to hold them to their own standards. As Mr. Beinart must know, opposition to Miguel Estrada does indeed have something to do with race.
April 18, 2002
WHAT SHALL IT PROFIT A MAN TO SAVE THE PRESS BUT LOSE HIS NATION? :The Mideast Press Process : War, unlike politics, can go on without
reporters. (P.J. O'ROURKE, April 16, 2002, Wall Street Journal)
[W]ithout reporters, how do we get the eyewitness, objective news that's necessary to shape public opinion in an open, democratic society? Good question and I'm glad the Israeli government had to answer it, because I couldn't. Yet that question raises other questions. How valuable is eyewitness war reporting for anything other than exciting shaky-cam lead-ins to Mylanta commercials? It's always hard to see the forest for the trees, especially when you're hiding behind one, scared silly.
And where did the idea of Olympian objectivity in journalism come from? Not from the good liberal-arts majors that journalists are supposed to be. Olympus had its finger in every pie in "The Iliad." The great war correspondents of more recent history were strangers to neutrality. Richard Harding Davis seemed willing to fight the Spaniards in Cuba by himself. Ernest Hemingway styled his World War II press contingent "Hem Force" and liberated several French towns, or at least the wine cellars thereof.
As for shaping public opinion, the media's record is spotty. We practically caused that ignominious war with Spain and then, ignominiously, almost kept America out of the war against the Nazis. Maybe we ended the Vietnam War, but it took us long enough.
Then there is the matter of plain, brilliant war reporting. The best example in years is "Black Hawk Down." But Mark Bowden wasn't there. His book wouldn't be as good if he'd been dead since 1993.
These things don't excuse Israel's interference with the news media. They make it worse. Those of us in journalism who support Israel for being open and democratic were left with a lot of explaining to do, but we also learned a lot. The media learned that war, unlike politics, does not depend upon the media to exist. Reporters were being reminded that they are sometimes dense, prejudiced and self-seeking.
Much as I hate to differ with the great Mr. O'Rourke, democracy is by its nature about the trees and not about the forest, which makes an absolutely free press a luxury we can ill afford in wartime, particularly a war of national survival (as Israel now faces), which is by its nature about the forest. The First Amendment protection of the press, if it is to mean anything, must allow the media to say anything they want about the government and even about an ongoing war. But it surely does not require the government to help the press to gather information, particularly in a war zone on foreign soil. If the newsies get the story, by all means let them print it. But if the military thinks their news gathering activities present a threat to the soldiers' safety or even to successful prosecution of the war, then most any limitations seem reasonable.
Free press absolutists seem willing to let the forest burn so long as their one tree survives. I'd rather save the forest, even if it gets thinned a little.
N.B.--that's my official entry in today's Tortured Metaphor contest.
THAT GIANT SUCKING SOUND :Vapid Venezuela : Which non-Arab country is filled with corrupt, oil-rich layabouts? (TUNKU VARADARAJAN, April 16, 2002, Wall Street Journal)
From top to bottom, Venezuela is a welfare state that lives off oil. Nothing of note is manufactured there. Nothing of note is manmade. The country's riches--oil, vast rivers, rich delta soil, rainforests, a vivid coastline, huge gold deposits, spectacular waterfalls and some of the most beautiful landscape one could hope to see--are all part of nature's bounty. What man--Venezuelan man--has done is to take, take, take.
And what he has built, or done, has been vile. Caracas is the ugliest city in South America. And Venezuela's civitas is the most underdeveloped of any of the major Latin American countries, its intellectual resources virtually nonexistent, its universities numbingly mediocre, its art a ghastly simulacrum of imported trends. Even its soccer team sucks. (The local excuse for the latter is that the national game is beisbol, but that game doesn't rise to great heights there either.)
So we have, here, a society of drones, so used to buying gas at 12 cents a gallon that they will burn buses and loot supermarkets if the price is raised to 13 cents. Petroleos de Venezuela, the national oil company, is state-owned, and its precious liquid irrigates every facet of life. This has left the civic musculature soggy. They to whom things come too easily become chronically work-shy, even congenitally so.
Let us not forget that Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan strongman, was elected by an overwhelming majority. Why? He promised to fight corruption, for one, which in Venezuela means tapping into the resentment that the little guys who rob the system blind have for the big guys who rob the system blinder; but he also promised to safeguard the Venezuelan way of life, by which he meant that no economic reform would come in the way of Venezuelans enjoying the bounty of their land, whatever this might cost future generations. Petro-welfare forever. ÁViva petroleo, viva!
Bernard Lewis, in his book What Went Wrong, makes the point that oil revenues have actually been a curse on the Middle East for one very important reason : the governments of the petro-nations don't need to collect taxes.
What's that?, you say. This is a blessing! Imagine, no taxes...
But, in fact, tax collection has the wonderful effect of focussing a populace's concentration on the actions of its government. When a government asks its citizens to contribute to the state, the leaders end up being held accountable for how they spend the money. Leaders in places like Venezuela and Saudi Arabia do not need to tax their people and therefore don't need to listen to their people. It's little wonder that leaders who are accountable to no one...well, not to put to fine a point on it...suck. .
N.B.--Many of you will object that we are taxed extravagantly and most of us hate how the government spends our money. Sadly, this is not the case. The majority of people have made the accurate if shortsighted determination that they end collecting far more in government services over the course of a lifetime than they ever pay in, so they don't really care if the system is inefficient. As long as the government is going to pay for their retirement and health care when they get old, they figure they're getting a good deal.
SIC TRANSIT FRANCE :The Fight for Quality of Life : How long can the French continue to afford their excellent — and expensive — public services? (BRUCE CRUMLEY, TIME)
Imagine that France was a developing country. What would the International Monetary Fund tell it to do? The state is France's biggest employer, directly providing nearly 25% of all jobs and indirectly supporting a further 15% — the IMF would certainly not approve. It would point out that by shrinking the public sector, the French could cure their spendthrift ways. (Last year public spending represented 51.4% of GDP.) The IMF would argue that by privatizing many services now assured by the state — from health care to transport to pensions — French wage earners would be left not only with more money in their pockets, but also with cheaper, more efficient services. And finally, the IMF would scold, lose that 35-hour week and get yourself a real work ethic.
Back on planet France, however, that wake-up-and-smell-the-austerity message is hardly being aired. France's big government is not only alive and well, it's getting bigger and more expensive all the time — and the French like it that way.
And as Western populations age and retire they are just going to keep demanding more and more public services, paid for by ever fewer workers, until the whole thing implodes.
April 17, 2002
JOHNNY, WE HARDLY KNEW YE :The Democrats' Best Hope : YES, MCCAIN SHOULD RUN. NO, NOT AS AN INDEPENDENT (Jonathan Chait, 04.16.02, New Republic)
The degree to which McCain has abandoned contemporary conservatism is reflected in the legislative program he has championed since Bush took office. Most notably, of course, he shepherded campaign finance reform--an effort that put him in close cooperation with Democrats in Congress. McCain also collaborated with liberal Democrats John Edwards and Ted Kennedy on a patients' bill of rights; with Charles Schumer on more widespread sale of generic prescription drugs; with Ernest Hollings to put federal employees in charge of airport security--all of which set him against fierce business lobbying. And he teamed up with Evan Bayh to promote AmeriCorps, an effort Bush later co-opted with his own smaller AmeriCorps boost.
But perhaps most amazing has been McCain's willingness to take stands even many Democrats are afraid of. He voted against Bush's tax cut, the centerpiece of the new president's agenda. Along with John Kerry, he sponsored legislation to raise automobile emissions standards, and he paired with Joe Lieberman to try to force Bush to reduce greenhouse gases in compliance with the Kyoto accord. Also with Lieberman, McCain has proposed forcing people who buy firearms at gun shows to undergo background checks--closing the "gun-show loophole"--even as most Democrats shy away from any form of gun control. He has infuriated the gambling industry by proposing to ban wagering on college sports. And along with Carl Levin, he has co-sponsored a bill to force companies that deduct executive stock options from their taxes to disclose the cost on their financial statements--another effort few Democrats have been willing to join.
One conclusion to draw from all this is simply that McCain has guts. But there's more to it than that. McCain's domestic agenda increasingly consists of bold reforms that expand the scope of the federal government. During the campaign, McCain paid lip service to anti-government bromides while supporting government intervention in specific instances. In the last year though, his ideology has grown coherently progressive. "We have had regulatory agencies always to curb the abuses or potential abuses of the capitalist system," he said earlier this year on cbs's "Face the Nation." "This is not a totally laissez-faire country." McCain, in other words, now believes in progressive government to counteract the excesses of the market and recognizes that the mere fact that business interests complain about such intervention does not by itself make it wrong. There is a term for people who think like this: Democrats.
If you believe in expanding a $2 Trillion government and increasing taxes to pay for it, support adding new entitlement programs to the welfare state, oppose the First and Second Amendments to the Constitution, support gay rights and abortion, etc., you are indeed a Democrat. And McCain would be far and away the Democrats best presidential candidate. He is far more hawkish than even George W. Bush--he'd have already attacked Iraq and probably a couple other countries too--and he no longer differs with Democrats on any significant issues.
But Mickey Kaus takes a different view, largely on the basis of McCain's opposition to affirmative action and how tacky it would look to switch parties, especially in wartime. Both of these objections though assume that McCain is the man portrayed by his legions of obsequious supporters in the media, rather than the candidate who reversed his position on nearly every issue when he ran for President in 2000. Surely he will change his mind about something as minor as racial quotas if he was willing to change his mind about abortion. And why would anyone believe that someone who is willing to change his supposed core political beliefs at the drop of a hat would be bothered by appearing tacky, especially when he knows that the press will collaborate in making it look like his switch was the product of deep soul-searching and painful disillusionment with the radical Right, led by George W. Bush? Folks like Mr. Kaus seem to persist in the belief, which many of us shared prior to the Keating scandal, that Mr. McCain is a man guided by principle. But his eager embrace of anti-constitutional Campaign Finance Reform, his cutting and trimming in the last set of presidential primaries, and his performance during this Senate session make it quite clear that he is guided, almost solely, by personal political ambition.
That's not necessarily a bad thing for the Democrats; they did pretty well with the not dissimilar Bill Clinton. But it's somewhat foolhardy for a pundit to make predictions based on the assumption that Mr. McCain is not one to act out of opportunism. When opportunity knocks, the Senator seems likely to answer.
DEFINING YOUR TERMS:The question arises, whether it is appropriate to refer to those who advocate unrestricted cloning as "clonophiles". Louder Fenn is worried that if it sticks, we'll be tarred as clonophobes and : "the last thing we need is another 'phobia' word to delegitimize us".
Unfortunately, Mr. Fenn, we don't get to choose the terms that get applied to us. We will be called clonophobes regardless of what we say or do. It will be just as absurd as calling us homophobes (have you ever noticed, there is no corresponding category of homophiles or heterophobes?) , which confuses repugnance with fear, but will likewise stick. Que Sera?
POSTREL'S PREPOSTEROUS POSTULATES :TEST TUBE CONSTITUENTS (Virginia Postrel, Dynamist.com)
It is possible to be simple, accurate, and emotionally persuasive at the same time. Coming up with the right phrasing may take more work, but neither freedom nor science is served by deliberate falsehood. That said, there's an obvious connection between yesterday's apocalyptic fears of test tube babies and today's apocalyptic fears of human cloning (whether for cell research or childbirth). [...]
But Chris Huttman makes a stunningly obvious point and important that I knew intellectually but had never processed: The test tube babies who were supposed to deliver us to Brave New World are old enough to be voters, and there are going to be more of them every day. If they pay any attention to today's rhetoric, these former test tube babies will start to notice that the Bush administration and its anti-cloning allies on the right and left don't really approve of their existence. (People like Leon Kass grudgingly say they've changed their minds and now accept in vitro fertilization, mostly because it's a done deal.) There is nothing like an attack on one's identity to mobilize a constituency, even against its economc interest. And there's no greater attack on identity than saying the world would be better if this group of voters had never been conceived.
We have lots of test tube babies. But we don't have Brave New World. We don't have Brave New World because we have no one in charge of allocating genetic rights, no central controller telling us who can have children and how. Instead, we have perfectly normal people who grew up within the robust, adaptable institution of the family—an institution now under attack, oddly enough, from conservatives who fear "designer babies" more than they fear government control over family life.
It would be futile and more than a little boring to try to only read columnists with whom you agree all the time. So it seems to me that the most you can ask is that a pundit be trenchant, observant, perceptive, interesting to read, and, hopefully, every once in awhile, profound. Unfortunately, this post by Ms Postrel fails on several counts.
First, despite her obtuseness, the Brave New World of gentic engineering is here. Since we've gained greater control over our reproductive processes, the effects on demographics and politics have been truly startling, and they've started to impact our economics in serious ways. Abortion and birth control have led to declining birth rates among the wealthiest, healthiest, and best-educated humans. We need not enter here into a discussion of the genetic and evolutionary impact this might have, instead just consider the fact that the children of such people tend to be wealthier, healthier, and better educated too. A demographic trend that sees the most advantaged shrinking in number seems somewhat troubling.
Further, we know of no nation in world history that has been able to grow its economy over the long term while shrinking its working age population. To see the catastrophic effects of such declining birthrates, we need look no farther than Japan. A former economic power, now in a state of perhaps permanent decline.
Even more disturbing, because its implications are more nefarious and its effects possibly quite dangerous, this reproductive control is being used to weed out female babies. One would think that this sex selection aspect of abortion would bother more people, but it is little discussed because it mitigates against the desire of feminists (and libertarians) to have abortion available on demand. Meanwhile, women face a future in which they will be in the minority of the voting age population for the first time (even when they were an "oppressed minority" they were a numerical majority) and most industrialized nations face the prospect of a future shortage of women, that is, not enough females to go around for the men of mating age.
That these are not the precise effects predicted by Aldous Huxley matters little. These trends represent the results of artificial breeding practices, of a Brave New World of using science to genetically engineer the population.
When it comes to analyzing the politics of test tube babies though she really falls apart. She apparently believes that children who are created for reproductive purposes, in much the same manner as others are created for purposes of organ farming, will identify with the party of the farmers. She posits that they will share common political views with people who believe that had one neurological switch been thrown while they were being born (to prevent them from becoming conscious), their organs would have been fair game for the rest of us, and that they will join in the struggle against the party that thinks that all of the test tube babies (regardless of the purpose for which they are created) have a divine spark, human dignity, and inalienable rights. This seems patently absurd. It's akin to believing that the freed slaves would naturally collaborate with the Southern slaveholders rather than with the abolitionists.
TANNED, RESTED AND READY? :The New Nixon? : Al Gore plots his comeback (John Fund, April 17, 2002, Wall Street Journal)
Democratic leaders worry that Mr. Gore's superior name identification could deliver him the nomination but then leave Democrats with a weak candidate in the general election. They recall that when Democrats nominated Walter Mondale in 1984, many voters identified [him] as Jimmy Carter's vice president. Mr. Mondale won the District of Columbia and--barely--Minnesota.
Mr. Gore prefers to look back at the career of another former vice president, Richard Nixon. In 1960, Nixon lost a heartbreakingly close election to John F. Kennedy. Two years later he ran for governor of California and was trounced. But in the years after, he gamely campaigned for dozens of GOP candidates, building up political chits while improving his television skills. In 1968 he was elected president.
The Nixon comparison is inapt for another reason. When the evil one ran in 1968 the ideological wing of the GOP had just been drubbed last time out, in 1964. So Nixon's moderation was a good sell.
The ideological wing of the Democrat Party hasn't been drubbed since '72 and one assumes they want another crack at it. This would tend to favor a fellow traveler of the Left, which Gore, for all his faults, is not. That's why a Hilary could beat him and even an Al Sharpton is likely to do well in the primaries. You almost have to hope that Hilary runs, just so we can enjoy the spectacle of her trashing Bill's legacy : free trade, welfare reform, balanced budgets, etc. But assuming that Gore does win, he'll have had to veer so far Left as to marginalize himself in the public eye and to make himself nearly unelectable. He's no Nixon, at least electorally.
IT'S A VISION THING:Radiant City Redux (Edward B. Driscoll, Jr., 04/16/2002, Tech Central Station)
Segway's vision takes the Radiant City full circle: Instead of reorganizing the city for the car, we reorganize it for the Segway. The car is banished. Streets, if they exist at all, will only be used for mass transit - and, of course, the Segway. As Bridge says, individuals would park their cars in greenbelt areas outside the city and glide in on their Segways. Never mind that it still hasn't been proven that people will actually buy the Segway, its builders are already in talks with city governments (Atlanta seems to be particularly keen on the Segway concept for some reason) to almost insure that they will have no choice. And if they don't, maybe the city government will buy a fleet of them and let individuals rent them.
It remains unclear to me why we should expect that cities even have a future. With the demise of manufacturing, does anyone still have a job that they couldn't just as easily do out of their home with a computer and video-conferencing?
But, as always, Mr. Driscoll's piece is interesting.
UPDATE : Mr. Driscoll believes I'm wrong and cities are here to stay.
It's entirely possible that this is just an instance of personal prejudice blinding me to the truth, but I find it hard to believe that people would choose to gather in cities unless it were necessary for work. On the other hand, I can buy the glorified playground idea. Of course, cities have lasted an awful long time and you'd have to be an ass to bet against them. I'm not.
NOT YOUR GRANDDAD'S GOP:Republicans, Conservatives More Supportive of Israelis than Democrats, Liberals : Pattern has persisted for at least the past decade (David W. Moore, April 17, 2002, GALLUP NEWS SERVICE )
Recently some news commentators have noted that the politics and conflict in the Middle East have made strange bedfellows. In the current confrontation between the Israelis and the Palestinians, American Jews are rallying support for Israel and are being supported most strongly, it appears, by conservatives and Republicans. Since Jews are overwhelmingly liberal and Democratic -- they voted four-to-one for Gore over Bush in the last presidential election -- this expression of support across the ideological divide is perceived by some commentators as unusual. But an analysis of Gallup polls over the past decade and a half suggests that conservatives and Republicans in this country have persistently provided at least more verbal support for Israel than have Democrats and liberals.
Since 1988, when Gallup first asked Americans if their sympathies lay more with the Israelis or with the Palestinian Arabs, more Americans have sided with the Israelis than with the Palestinians. The percentages have varied, but the margin in favor of the Israelis has never fallen below 22 percentage points, while it reached a high of 48 points in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. In the last 14 years, Republicans have always expressed relatively more sympathy for the Israelis over the Palestinians than have the Democrats. Similarly, the margin of support for Israelis has always been higher among conservatives than among liberals.
It certainly helps that Republicans/conservatives/libertarians don't buy into multicultural self-loathing. Democrats would probably support Native Americans in a conflict with the United States.
FROM PATRICK'S LIPS TO GOD'S EARS :IT'S GONNA BE GORE (Patrick Ruffini, 4/15/02)
The trouble with Gore isn't his viability. It's his message. Gore is speaking to an audience which apparently believes September 11 never happened, and as such, he speaks in inchoate, September 10 tones. His main gripes are about the environment and the deficit, and neither issue resonates enough to motivate a large number of voters to defect from Bush. Politicians on both sides — first Republicans, then Democrats — have been huffing and puffing about fiscal responsibility for years, but not once, to my mind, has a major election been decided on the issue of deficit spending. You can't even show that the deficit was the trigger which elected Bill Clinton in 1992, even though the deficit was then at historic highs and it figured prominently in Ross Perot's campaign. Once elected, Clinton made it clear that deficit reduction was something he was doing for extra credit, hence his unexpectedly large tax increase. The Democrats came to love the issue when Clinton showed how it could be easily stolen from the Republicans. But Clinton's strategy was far more sophisticated than Gore's. While Gore means to exploit fiscal probity for its own sake, Clinton was simply out to madden and confound Republicans who thought they owned the issue. His was a defensive strategy to close down every potential line of Republican attack against him, and circa 1995-96, Republicans didn't have much against the incumbent President except for the deficit and welfare reform. All Clinton had to do completely cut off the GOP's oxygen supply was embrace these two ideals, and that he did. He did it even though he could have been re-elected as a big spender. Now that Democrats supposedly "own" the issue, they'll face the same problems the Republicans did in wielding it as an offensive weapon.
I think Patrick is pretty seriously underestimating Gore's viability problem. In the press and in debates he's just going to get pounded for blowing the 2000 election, when he was handed a wealthy nation at peace and couldn't beat a drunk moron (as they still believe him to be). As recently as thirty years ago, Nixon could overcome the same problem, having duplicated Gore's feat against JFK, but in an age where the newscycle is measured in hours, not days, Gore is very much yesterday's news.
He also has the Dukakis/Tsongas problem. Democrats from MA tend to win here in NH, no matter how awful they are as candidates. They enjoy a virtual favorite son effect. This has to make John Kerry the favorite in the NH primary and if Gore loses just once within the party it does tremendous damage to his viability and inevitability as the eventual nominee. Just imagine the questions : you couldn't beat Bush last time; you lost TN, your own state, last time (and you're behind in the polls there now); and now you've lost the pivotal first primary; isn't it fair to say that you are a loser?
THE YUCK FACTOR :The case for cloning? (Paul Greenberg, April 17, 2002, Town Hall))
The underlying arguments for cloning humans have a familiar sound about them, the sound of rationalization. That's because the prospect of artificially re-creating ourselves arouses in ordinary human beings a deep moral repugnance.[...]
To justify experimenting on human clones, we shall have to define clones as something other than human. Surely we can. Look at how we've managed to dehumanize the fetus. And yet all the usual word games may still fail to mask the natural repugnance human cloning arouses in humans. The soul has reasons of its own.
Repugnance, we shall be reminded, is not a reason. But that doesn't mean there is no reason for the revulsion that the idea of cloning human beings excites in us.
Why is the idea so instinctively repellent? Leon Kass, a scholar who has thought about these things rather than rushed to experiment, calls it the wisdom of repugnance:
"We are repelled by the prospect of cloning human beings not because of the strangeness or the novelty of the undertaking, but because we intuit and we feel, immediately and without argument, the violation of things that we are right to hold dear. We sense that cloning represents a profound defilement of our given nature as procreative beings, and of the social relations built on this natural ground. We also sense that cloning is a radical form of child abuse. In this age in which everything is held to be permissible so long as it is freely done, and in which our bodies are regarded as mere instruments of our autonomous rational will, repugnance may be the only voice left that speaks up to defend the core of our humanity. Shallow are the souls that have forgotten how to shudder."
It is this shallowness of the soul that explains the transformation in our time of so many practices from abomination to institution.
The debate over human cloning has this much in common with the differences between what have come to be called the pro-life and pro-choice camps over abortion and euthanasia. This debate, like the others, is over our differing definitions of human dignity and who should be allowed to share it. Even the unborn? And, now, even the cloned?
All men are created equal (but some are more equal than others)...
April 16, 2002
BORN AGAIN VIRGINITY ON THE LEFT:The Mighty Wurlitzer : What progressives can learn from David Brock's account of the conservative machine. (Robert Borosage, 5.6.02, American Prospect)
...Brock tours the political infrastructure that makes the right wing so formidable. [...]
The "vast right-wing conspiracy" against Clinton isn't news. [...]More important is what Brock describes in passing: the institutions and arrangements that enable the right to drive the political debate. Here the contrast between the right-wing apparat and what exists on the left is stark.
Most formidable, of course, is the right's money machine. The imbalance between right and left is neither secret nor surprising. The Heritage Foundation, the most influential conservative think tank, runs on more than $25 million a year; the Economic Policy Institute, the premier think tank of progressives, gets by on less than $6 million annually. [...]
There is nothing on the progressive side of town remotely competitive with this. There is no progressive TV network and few progressive pundits. Several good journals of opinion exist, but nothing with the reach of Rush Limbaugh, the Journal editorial page, Rupert Murdoch's Fox News network, or even The Washington Times. [...]
[U]ntil progressives develop the institutions and the arrangements needed simply to get into the debate -- to be able to present ideas, broadcast them, echo them, and defend them against the assault from the right -- our politics will be driven and degraded by the institutional forces Brock describes.
Up in these parts, we call what Mr. Borosage says there the equivalent of cramming ten pounds of cow flap in a five pound bag.
After the disgraceful demonization of Robert Bork when he was up for a Supreme Court seat in 1987, Ethan Bonner, wrote a very fine book Battle for Justice : How the Bork Nomination Shook America, in which he detailed the sophisticated, coordinated, and vicious campaign by liberal politicians and Left wing organizations to kill the nomination at all costs.
Mr. Bonner was then a legal affairs reporter for the Boston Globe, I think he may have moved on to the NY Times, and could not by any stretch of the imagination be considered a partisan, in fact, his discussions of Bork's jurisprudence and philosophy suggested that he might have opposed the nominee on purely legal grounds. But his account of the battle is fair and it is chilling. Everyone knew that Mr. Bork would eventually be appointed to the Court, and with his relative youth and unparalleled mind, he was the man the Left most feared--knowing he might become the Right's Brennan. So they had been gearing up for the fight for several years, doing opposition research and laying the groundwork for a unified campaign against the judge.
The process started with a truly repellent speech by Ted Kennedy when the nomination was announced, in which he declared that putting Mr. Bork on the Court would mean women would be getting abortions in back alleys; it continued with well orchestrated denunciations by "civil rights" groups, led by Ralph Neas, as I recall; and ended with Senator Howell Heflin implying that he was voting against the nominee because of his video rental habits. A few years later many of the same tricks were trotted out against Clarence Thomas, but he outbrazened them with his "high tech lynching" remarks and just barely snuck through.
These kinds of attacks were made possible then, just as they are today (witness the recent campaign against Charles Pickering), by a combination of friendly media (the NY Times, the networks, etc.), labor and foundation money, political pressure groups, etc., etc., etc. Yet Mr. Borosage seems to want us to believe that saintly progressives are sitting around like the little girl plucking daisy petals in the infamous LBJ ad, while the nasty conservatives wield atomic bombs. The Left has indeed been deflowered, but it was some years ago that they lost their innocence. Mr. Borosage's review of the vile David Brock's book is risible--the two are welcome to one another.
CAESAR'S WIFE :Homosexuality a Factor in Sex Abuse by Priests (Joel Mowbray, March 26, 2002, TownHall.com)
Although greeted with a wave of protest, suggestions by Vatican spokesman Dr. Joaquin Navarro-Valls of a link between homosexuality and sexual abuse by priests cannot be lightly dismissed, and in fact, demand further exploration.
Part of the sensitivity in this discussion is the fear that such comments imply a connection between homosexuality and pedophilia. But in the overwhelming number of cases made public so far, the victims have been teenage boys (not girls), meaning that this does not fit the clinical definition of pedophilia, which is the obsessive sexual attraction to prepubescent children.
In order to truly get at the root of the problem, the imperative question is why has the homosexuality of priests resulted in the molestation of adolescent boys?
According to most estimates, 25-50% of priests are homosexuals, compared to the 3-5% of men in the general public who are gay. Not only does the priesthood have a disproportionately strong appeal to homosexuals, but most of the priests involved in the scandals came of age during the sexual revolution of the late 60's and early 70's. Adding further fuel to the fire is the immaturity of many of these priests, who often joined the seminaries fresh out of grade school, denying them the normal social experiences of adolescence. The combination of homosexuality, lax sexual attitudes, and immaturity has proven a recipe for disaster.
The current scandal in the Catholic Church, although overblown by the antireligious for political purposes, represents a profound failure by one of the West's most important institutions. The Church, particularly in the wake of Vatican II, attempted to increase its popular appeal by making itself more like the general society of Europe and the U.S. (where most of its members were then located), rather than fulfilling its necessary role of demanding that society adhere to certain traditions, beliefs, and eternal moral standards. The idea that the Church could compromise on the sexual orientation of its clergy and not face eventual catastrophe is manifestly deranged.
'Virtual' child porn law struck down : Supreme Court says it is too vague, violates First Amendment (ASSOCIATED PRESS, April 16, 2002)
The Supreme Court struck down a congressional ban on virtual child pornography Tuesday, ruling that the First Amendment protects pornography or other sexual images that only appear to depict real children engaged in sex. The 6-3 ruling, Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, is a victory for both pornographers and legitimate artists such as moviemakers, who argued that a broad ban on simulated child sex could make it a crime to depict a sex scene like those in the recent movies "Traffic" or "Lolita."
The Court said language in a 1996 child pornography law was unconstitutionally vague and far-reaching. The court majority, led by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, found two
provisions of the Child Pornography Prevention Act overly broad and unconstitutional.
"The First Amendment requires a more precise restriction," Kennedy wrote for himself and Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote separately to agree with the outcome.
The law was challenged by a trade association for pornographers.
The law barred sexually explicit material that "appear(s) to be a minor" or that is advertised in a way that "conveys the impression" that a minor was involved in its creation.
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor partially agreed with the majority and partially disagreed. She was joined by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justice Antonin Scalia. Rehnquist and Scalia also filed their own separate dissenting opinion that went further.
"The aim of ensuring the enforceability of our nation's child pornography laws is a compelling one," Rehnquist wrote for the pair. "The (law) is targeted to this aim by extending the definition of child pornography to reach computer-generated images that are virtually indistinguishable from real children engaged in sexually explicit conduct."
Speaking of things that make cultural conservatives crotchety... I simply fail to see how the First Amendment covers pornography. The Constitution is a political document, its provisions specifically designed to vindicate certain political rights. What conceivable political right is implicated when legislatures criminalize pornography? What damage does it do to the Republic if we ban the viewing of child pornography?
PERRY DE HAVILLAND (of Libertarian Samizdata) RESPONDS TO "TEN QUESTIONS FOR CLONOPHILES" :
1) That is a compelling argument against the welfare state, not against cloning.
2) Again you make a wonderful argument against the welfare state. I for one look forward to the day when all such things as Social Security and Medicare go bust, based as they are on stolen money.
3) Simple. Eventually the economy collapses and reality reasserts itself unless a sustainable dynamic is achieved. cf. Soviet Union (and the EU in 15-20 years from now).
4) Sounds to me like the perfect impetus to get back in touch with the most beloved of conservative institutions, the Extended Family. The shape of family life has been changing for economic reasons since the Industrial Revolution, who is to say that it will not continue to do so? I am looking after my 81 year old Grandmother here at home. Is that such a terrible thing? I don't think so.
5) With high value high tech super troopers and smart force multiplying weapons... in other words exactly the way the current trend has been pointing for the last 25 years.
6) Perhaps it will lead to finally breaking the heroin-like infatuation western societies have with democracy. Ah yes, such thoughts bring out the Promethean side of me that is usually wrestling with my more evolutionary notions. State at the fire long enough and you will start to see prophetic double helix shapes in the dancing flames.
7) Yes, it is indeed sensible to 'cherry pick', not just in a future transgenic transhuman era but right now. In Extropian times to come, there will be a market place for radical gene pools too :-)
8) Why should you try and stop Great Grandpa? If his altered genes allow him to function, then let him just get on with being Great Grandpa. You seem to fail to see the upside... a non senile genetically engineered 110 year old is not a problem to be managed, he is a walking, talking repository of 110 years of experiences and insights! How is that bad?
9) Again Orrin, I sometimes suspect you are yourself a closet libertarian in need of being 'outed' :-)
I can think of no better scenario for making the adoption of a more libertarian order. The majority must be restrained by facing the fact that democracy is unsustainable unless severely constrained, something well understood in 1776 but which has got a bit fuzzy since. Maybe technology will force people to face that fact yet again.
10) damn, there is no 10, you joker Judd!
-Perry de Havilland
-Apr 15 2002, 06:18 pm
ORRIN RESPONDS TO PERRY :
It is no surprise that your answers are insightful; I hesitate to tell you how inane the rest of the "libertarians" have been. They are mostly of the "None of this will happen", "If it does we'll deal with it", "You just hate science" variety. But I believe that your answers actually illustrate the scope of the problems that we were trying to raise here.
It is all well and good to say that most of the problems are a function of the democratic welfare state, yet the fact remains : we live in democratic welfare states. These states are already close to buckling under the pressure of aging populations, falling birthrates, sclerotic bureaucracies, too generous government benefits, and confiscatory taxation, but we see little evidence that developed nations are willing to address these problems in any serious way. Has any nation in human history ever had a better opportunity to lower taxes and reduce the scope of government than did the United States in the 1990s? We'd been on a war footing since 1941, spending ridiculous amounts of money on guns and providing absurd amounts of butter to buy off the populace. So then came the peace, and what happened to taxes and spending? Their growth slowed a bit, but they continue to go higher. Like rats on crack, we've become addicted to big government. The system has to crash eventually--the majority can't transfer other people's money to themselves ad infinitum--but there's no sign we're headed to a national Twelve-Step Program any time soon.
We need only look at Japan to see a society that has chosen a fairly comfortable suicide instead of the more uncomfortable challenge of revitalizing the nation. The Japanese seem content to sit idly by as their country deteriorates, its economy in decline, its culture moribund, its people dying off. Most of Europe is not far behind and we in America will get there soon enough. To then take this tottering system and pile on a whole range of new problems, or merely to exacerbate those that already exist, is a recipe for social disruption on a massive scale. It could turn the slow decline into a precipitous collapse. You may welcome this eventuality, and believe that it would provide an opportunity to restore a greater level of freedom in the West. I have less confidence in our fellow citizens. So, I would prefer to see us try to tackle these problems and reform the state before we take the biotech leap.
My real question though is : are the folks who generally advocate this technical revolution prepared to cope with the political revolution? Do they even recognize that they may cause it? And are you confident that at the end of both revolutions we'll be more free? If we are likely to be less free, or at least face a serious risk that such will be the case, don't libertarians in particular have a responsibility to take seriously the probability that the revolution in health care may restrict freedom in and of itself and may well provoke a political revolution that ends in an even greater curtailment of freedom?
Personally, as a conservative, I hate both revolutions (all revolutions) and don't expect to see either lead to greater freedom. In the words of William F. Buckley, Jr., sometimes someone has to stand astride the world and holler, Stop! That's what a ban would do, in my opinion, not stop us permanently, but give us time to figure out where we're headed and what we need to do before we get there. I'd certainly start, as I suspect would you, with devolving most of the responsibilities of the welfare state back to the people, in an orderly fashion, and reconstituting traditional institutions like marriage, family, church, etc. Once we have society back on a healthier and more stable footing, we'll have plenty of time to fiddle with our genes and our brain chemistry. What's the big rush?
Mind you, I understand the attraction of extended or even eternal life, our mortality is the very source of the human dilemma. Eating from the Tree of Knowledge we became Godlike, but deprived of the fruit of the Tree of Life we are painfully human. What man would not wish to heal this breach, to at long last become Gods. But that dream smacks of hubris and it is rooted in an understandable but unhealthy dislike for our own natures. What miserable Gods such creatures as we would make.
I wonder though, as a threshold matter (assuming that our apotheosis is a long way off), if our desire to achieve this dream and our apparent willingness to sacrifice our humanity in pursuit of it can be reconciled with freedom. And if we face a choice between the two, which seems at least a possibility, I wonder why, given that we've surrendered so much freedom to the welfare state in exchange for mere comfort and security, we should believe that democratic Man won't be willing to surrender even more in exchange for a longer duration to that comfort? If we are to be unfree anyway, then perhaps we may as well live eternal lives of sensory stimulation. Perhaps that is the paltry portion of godhood accessible to us. But let's first try restoring freedom and civil society and see if we really want to trade them for an endless narcotic slumber.
ANTI-ANTI-PEDOPHILIA? :Is pedophilia going mainstream (John Leo, April 15, 2002, Town Hall)
"Harmful to Minors" is a classic example of how disorder in the intellectual world leaks into the popular culture. In this case, I think the leakage comes from the "Rind study," which caused a national furor after it appeared in 1998 in the Psychological Bulletin, a publication of the American Psychological Association. The study's conclusion that child sex abuse "does not cause intense harm on a pervasive basis" was the highest level endorsement yet of the old no-harm rationalization for child sexual abuse. Understandably, the Rind study is the new Bible of pedophiles and their groups.
The study also called for a sweeping change in the language used to discuss child sexual abuse (a term the study rejected as judgmental). This delighted the pedophile movement, which favors terms like "intergenerational intimacy." One critic of Rind mockingly asked whether the word "rape" should now be changed to "unilaterally consenting adult-adult sex."
The Rind study was a meta-analysis, an academic term for noodling around with other people's old studies instead of conducting your own. Meta-analyses notoriously leave lots of room for omissions and arbitrary decisions to make different studies with different standards and definitions somehow fit together.
The major point about the Rind study is not whether it was intellectually shoddy (though I think it was) but that it shifted the national discussion several degrees toward the normalization of pedophilia. It will take a great deal more to convince the American people that tots have the right to select adult sex partners. But the terrain has been changed. Instead of virtually all Americans vs. the pedophiles, the Rind team (who grandly compared their case to the travails of Galileo) invited us to see it as scientific and fair-minded people who believe in openness and dialogue vs. meddling, anti-scientific, right-wing moralists. It invites the left and the center to view anti-pedophilia traditionalists as the real problem, just as Judith Levine says "the enemy is us," not pedophiles.
Here's an example of the terrain change. For more than 20 years the pedophile advocate Tom O'Carroll has been a stigmatized outsider. Now he has been invited to address an international sex convention in Paris on the subject of privacy rights of pedophiles and their child partners (or targets). His pro-pedophilia book is on a course list at Cambridge University. O'Carroll is surprised and delighted by his new stature, and he thinks the Rind study brought it about. Intellectually respectable pedophilia? What's next?
People sometimes ask why it is necessary for cultural conservatives to be so crotchety. Well, we're crotchety because we may not know the precise answer to Mr. Leo's question, "What's next?", but we do know that whatever it is will be even worse. In fact, considering current trends in sexual morality--which largely consist of the disposal of sexual morality--it seems likely that this is the last child sex abuse scandal of our times. In the not too distant future, political correctness will require us to treat the men who perpetrate these kinds of assaults as merely oriented differently than we are, instead of as predators. And that will be hailed as progress...
MYSTIQUE OR MISTAKE? :Feminist winners sing the blues (Suzanne Fields, April 15, 2002, TownHall)
The underlying theme of these complaints is that life is unfair to women. After four decades of successful feminism, the Man in this scenario still has the edge. He doesn't have to be so concerned about his looks or his biology (though power, money and testosterone don't hurt). To paraphrase Rousseau, a feminist may be born free, but she is everywhere in chains to the aging process. If anatomy is not destiny, it's a major contender in determining life's choices.
It's ironic that feminists whose mantra is "choice" have trouble understanding the meaning of the word as it applies to personal decisions. Choices have consequences. There are forks in the road and roads not taken. The sexual revolution and feminism multiplied choices, but didn't eliminate the need to choose.
Radical feminism proceeded from two patently absurd notions : (1) that we could completely re-engineer tens of thousands of years of human nature without experiencing any negative side effects; and (2) that men, who had "oppressed" women for all those thousands of years, were suddenly yielding up a co-equal share of power without getting anything in return. And so, several decades on, men have been able to shuck off a considerable share of the workload, can get their freak on without incurring any obligation, are not actually bound by marriage vows, have little or no responsibility for child rearing, and, thanks to gender-choice abortions will soon outnumber women in the electorate for the first time in human history. Meanwhile, women find themselves objectified and commodified as mere sexual goods, having to provide for themselves and maybe for children, developing the myriad stress-related health problems that used to be more typical of men, and about to be a political minority.
One wonders if the next great feminist leader won't be the one who leads the counter-revolution, as women seek to reconstruct the tattered institutions that had protected them for millennia, like marriage, family, etc.. In the same way that women have tended to support government programs that provide them with security--social security, Medicare, Medicaid, child care programs, etc,--we might expect to see growing numbers of women in favor of limits on abortion, government benefits for marriage, reform and tightening of divorce laws, and the like. The question then would be : will men, who tend to favor freedom over security, and who will by then be able to exercise the tyranny of a majority, be willing to cede back the freedoms they have been handed? If I were a woman, I wouldn't bet on the magnanimity of men, again...
April 15, 2002
TEN QUESTIONS FOR CLONOPHILES :The only permissible faith in modern society is faith in science. Even as decent and reasonable an intellectual as Andrew DelBanco has said that : "[religious] belief is really not an option for thinking people today". This effectively removes the possibility of raising religious/moral objections to pretty much any idea or practice amongst polite company. Yet, so long as a hypothesis is scientific in nature, one can speak of it as if it were fact, wield it in an argument as if it were"truth", and portray anyone who fails to pay it obeisance as anti-science, superstitious, god-addled, a luddite, or worse. If you question the progress of some particular aspect of science or the wisdom of its practice you are assumed to oppose science itself, to pose a threat to the very age of reason. And so, at least among the elites, the dispute over cloning and genetic engineering has quickly degenerated into a kind of medieval Inquisition, with anyone who suggests that it might be inadvisable to allow unfettered experimentation being treated as if they were mouthing the Albigensian heresy.
Let us then try to shift the plane of the argument slightly. Forget for a moment any questions of science or morality--proponents refuse to acknowledge moral ramifications; opponents don't think the scientific promise can ever surmount the moral concerns; so why bother continuing to bang our heads on that wall. Let's assume for the sake of argument that all forms of cloning and genetic manipulation are to be allowed and will work perfectly and that we have no moral qualms about them. Here are a few purely political questions we'd like to have answered:
(1) How much are we willing to pay for all this? Make no mistake, it is we. The taxpayers in general are going to end up paying for all this stuff because we aren't going to allow only the rich to have access to such technology; those days are long gone. Medicine today is by and large socialized, a shared expense of the population generally. So how much are we willing to see our taxes go up and our paychecks go down in order to pay for the life extension that this technoilogy promises?
(2) How are we going to pay for the results? Suppose that all of the various biotechnologies that are being developed right now result in a twenty year extension of the average lifespan of those of us who are alive right now. Sounds great, right? But we're all aware that Social Security and Medicaire are going to go broke in a few years and we haven't been willing to confront this fact. How then will we pay for people's golden years when their retirements last longer than their working lives? (N.B.--The easiest answer, that we'll just require people to work longer runs up against that the old will control political decision making and may choose not to.)
(3) On a related note, how will our politics change when the preponderance of our citizens are retirees, dependent on government for their livelihood? What is the future of freedom in a society where the majority requires ever increasing transfers of wealth from the minority (working age people)? Why would the young stay here? Will a nation of immigrants turn into a nation of emigrants?
(4) Even beyond the tension that will arise between young and old, what kind of tension can we expect between the old and the super-old. Right now, when you reach 65, you can reasionably expect that your kids will be on their own and your parents will be dead, or close to it. You are essenially free of familial duties. What heppends when our parents start living longer and longer and a substantial portion of our "retirement" turns into a period of caring for our very elderly and infirm parents?
(5) One of the arguments that is frequently made in favor of this kind of science is that if we don't do it, we'll fall behind others. Point taken. So now suppose that the industrialized West moves ahead with this kind of medicine. The population becomes even more preponderantly elderly, but only here in the West. In the Islamic world, Africa, and elsewhere the population continues to get younger. How does an aged nation protect itself, militarily when war is historically the province of the young? Will these decrept societies have to be prepared to resort to their greater technology--nuclear, chemical, biological--in order to fend off adversaries?
(6) We are well aware of the great reluctance with which those who have power surrender it. What is the future of a culture in which those who have power are capable of retaining it for years even after their mental capacities begin to diminish? Keep in mind, we're not just talking about Alzheimer's here or some other catastrophic illness that might be cured by this technology but just the normal deterioration of brain function that sees scientists, mathematicians and the like peak by the time they are thirty.
(7) What kind of restraints are we going to put on corporate America, which would has an obvious vested interest in employees who are healthy as oxen until they are 65 but then drop dead? Presumably we'll gain great knowledge about genetics and life expectancies and the like. Is it permissible for employers to cherry pick not on the basis of race creed or color but on the basis of likely health and time of death? If not, what kind of new government interference do those who advocate this science think should be allowed on corporate America, interference which they normally oppose?
(8) How do we restrict the rights and privileges of this dominant voting block as their capacities diminish? Do we really want Great Grandpa driving around town when he's 110? And if not, how do we stop him?
(9) How do we prevent them from restricting the rights of the young? We've heard in recent years about court cases where grandparents seek visitation rights to see their grandchildren. These cases have so far been decided against the grandparents. Will this remain true in a future where grandparents dominate? The aging of the population has already produced age discrimination laws, next it may produce affirmative action type laws for the aged, who have, of course, historically been discriminated against in the workplace (as with mandatory retirement). How will we restrain these impulses of the majority?
We've tried to strip out the science and the religion from these questions and to consider only the political implications of biotechnology. It seems to me that we are inevitably headed towards a future that is considerably less free as a result of these technologies and their unintended consequences. That is why it is so perverse that the main advocates, at least on-line, of this future are self-desribed libertarians. One has to assume that they've not thought their own positions through and are instead responding solely on the basis of their fetish for science and their visceral disdain for religious beliefs. But beyond religion and science lies politics and it is their blind leap into the political thicket that troubles us and should the thoughtful among them.
N.B.--Please feel free to respond to any of the question in the comments section or via email. We'll post any coherent responses that actually address the political concerns raised. We also welcome any further questions, so long as they are of a political nature.
RESPONSE : (from Rand Simberg) :
Your questions don't seem to pertain to therapeutic cloning per se, so much as to question the very notion of extending life.
ORRIN RESPONDS :
That's a valid point; in attempting to make this more generic and less about the specific science and religion of cloning it does come out sounding like I'm opposed to the very notion of extending life.
I did not intend to go quite that far. I meant that the rapid extension that biotech promises, and that its advocates assume will be its sole fruit, will create extreme pressures on a social fabric that is already fraying badly.
I am though an incrementalist. I would slow the pace of change to give us time to deal with these social problems and would start by limiting or banning extraordinary measures like cloning or transplants in older patients. Actually, the easiest way to slow all this stuff down is to return to a medical system where patients pay a larger portion of the bill for the services they recieve and where the government stops paying for such absurdly expensive procedures all together.
THE NECESSITY OF BEING A CONSERVATIVE :The death of socialism (Roger Kimball, April 2, 2002, The New Criterion)
What is socialism? In part, it is optimism translated into a political program. Until he took up gardening, Candide was a sort of proto-socialist; his mentor Pangloss could have been one of socialism's founding philosophers. Socialism is also unselfishness embraced as an axiom: the gratifying emotion of unselfishness, experienced alternately as resentment against others and titillating satisfaction with oneself. The philosophy of Rousseau, which elevated what he called the 'indescribably sweet' feeling of virtue into a political imperative, is socialism in ovo. 'Man is born free,' Rousseau famously exclaimed, 'but is everywhere in chains.' That heart-stopping conundrum--too thrilling to be corrected by mere experience--is the fundamental motor of socialism. It is a motor fueled by this corollary: that the multitude unaccountably colludes in perpetuating its own bondage and must therefore be, in Rousseau's ominous phrase, 'forced to be free.'
We owe the term 'socialism' to some followers of Robert Owen, the nineteenth-century British industrialist who founded New Harmony, a short-lived utopian community on the banks of the Wabash in Indiana. Owen's initial reception in America was impressive. In an 1825 address to Congress, Joshua Muravchik reports in Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism, Owen's audience included not only congressmen but also Supreme Court justices, cabinet members, President Monroe, and President-elect John Quincy Adams. Owen described to this August assemblage how his efforts to replace the 'individual selfish system' with a 'united social' system would bring forth a 'new man' who was free from the grasping imperatives that had marred human nature from time immemorial. (And not only human nature: the utopian socialist Charles Fourier expected selfishness and cruelty to be obliterated from the animal kingdom as well: one day, he thought, even lions and whales would be domesticated.) The starry-eyed aspect of socialist thinking did not preclude a large element of steel. As Muravchik points out, the French Revolution was 'the manger' of socialism. It was then that the philosophy of Rousseau emerged from the pages of tracts and manifestos to strut across the bloody field of history. The architects of the revolution invoked Rousseau early and often as they set about the task of 'changing human nature,' of 'altering the constitution of man for the purpose of strengthening it.'
It is often wondered at that the America should have proven the most enduring of Man's experiments in freedom. The American Republic is after all an extraordinarily conservative regime, grounded in a dour and pessimistic view of human nature, its core system of checks and balances a quite explicit attempt to play off the overweening ambitions and will to power of each man against the other. It assumes the worst of all of us, yet has produced the best. Why should it be that conservatism, this darkest of the political philosophies, should be the only one to bring lasting light to benighted Man?
The beginnings of the answer can be found in Mr. Kimball's essay and apparently in Mr. Muravchik's book. Socialism (and liberalism generally, and libertarianism for that matter) is based not on human nature as it exists, as we see it around us, but on either a belief that human nature was different at some earlier date in our history, or that it can be fundamentally transformed now. It can even be said that the optimism of socialism (and the rest) is a function of the denial of reality. Socialism assumes that humans were unselfish in a state of Nature and that those-who-had happily shared with those-who-didn't, living in contented voluntary equality, and perhaps more importantly that the species can be made that way again. (Libertarianism assumes the same kind of primordial unselfishness but that everyone was content with whatever they had and did not even desire what their fellows had, living in contented voluntary inequality.) There's something undeniably appealing about the vision of human nature as plastic and perfectible. Compare it to the conservative view of human nature as fundamentally flawed and intractable, and it's no wonder that conservatism has largely disappeared in the era of popular government. Who wants to hear that they are base and debauched and that government can do little more than keep us from each others throats? It's much more comforting to be told that a nip here and a tuck there will produce a paradise here on Earth and the speaker generally sounds nicer saying it. Conservatism is your stern father disciplining you, socialism your mother offering unconditional love.
Unfortunately, the more bitter irony arises when the philosophies of Man's essential goodness come to power and try to actually perfect us. It can hardly be surprising that the effort to take Man as we find him and either restore him to some imagined earlier form or to transform him into some idealized new form must be a bloody and oppressive business. The entire 20th Century stands as murderous testimony to the futility of the task. And so do we arrive at the paradoxical realization that these philosophies, though couched in optimistic language, are ultimately based on a genuine hatred of humanity and an insistence that we change, while the pessimism of the conservatives results in an acceptance, however grudging, of Man as he is. Little wonder though that conservatism, the philosophy of the realist, should produce the best government.
DADDY, WHAT WAS EUROPE? :Does Democracy Need Voters? : The question Europe still needs to answer (Jonathan Rauch, March 2002, Atlantic Monthly)
Let's face it, voters are a nuisance. They have an inconvenient habit of refusing to follow where social reformers want to lead. And so reformers are always on the prowl for ways to bypass electorates. One such effort is the increasingly audacious campaign by American lawyers and activists to circumvent legislatures with lawsuits. Another is the attempt to set up a number of supranational agencies, including an International Criminal Court, whose functionaries would not be accountable to voters anywhere. A third, and at least until lately the most ambitious of all such projects, is the European Union.
The EU is a consortium of European governments (fifteen at the moment) that for most of its forty-plus years has drifted steadily away from the moorings of good governance. A good government should be delimited in its powers, but the EU's guiding premise has been "ever closer union," leading to a permanent constitutional revolution that has inexorably gathered power toward the center. A good government should be comprehensible in its structure and open in its workings, but the EU's processes are bafflingly arcane, and many of its key deliberations are conducted behind closed doors. A good government should, above all, be accountable to voters in regular elections, but the EU has only one elected branch, which is by far its weakest: the parliament. [...]
Europe's unprecedented and, it must be said, surprisingly successful effort to create a Europe-wide democracy without a Europe-wide electorate has finally hit a wall. The EU plans to admit twelve new members in the next few years. Getting the existing members to agree on anything is hard enough; twelve new ones may cause total paralysis. Prompted by this realization, an especially prominent critic has recently pointed out many of the shortcomings delineated above, charging that the EU's citizens "feel that
deals are all too often cut out of their sight," that they believe "the Union is behaving too bureaucratically," and that the EU "needs to become more democratic, more transparent and more efficient." This critic is none other than the EU itself, which made these points in a formal declaration in December and announced plans for a convention, starting this month and continuing into next year, to draft a constitution for Europe.
Americans may yawn. During a war on terrorism, who can be bothered with "qualified majority voting," "subsidiarity," "variable geometry," and the other tongue-twisting and brain-addling elements of the EU apparatus? Besides, no one would be surprised if a grandiose EU parley disintegrates into diplomatic pablum.
But the new convention looks to be different. Its mandate is sweeping, putting on the table everything from the Union's basic division of powers with its member states to the direct election of an EU President. It will consult a wide range of real people--national parliamentarians, academics, members of private groups, business leaders--in addition to the usual coteries of EU ministers and bureaucrats. Above all, it is impelled by Europeans' realization that today's blob needs shape and limits if it is to grow without collapsing.
The EU can take on a host of new members, or it can become more democratic and open, or it can become more streamlined and efficient; to do all three at once, however, seems impossible. The EU's constitutional convention, in short, faces a hopeless task--just as our own constitutional convention did in 1787. I wouldn't bet that the talks will produce a turning point in Western history. But I wouldn't write off the possibility either.
Unlike Mr. Rauch, we've written the possibility off. The sclerotic and authoritarian bureaucracy of the EU is merely the last nail in Europe's coffin. Its more serious problems include : the passing of religious belief and the according death of morality; social welfare states that mitigate against productivity and creativity; declining birthrates; and dependence on immigrant labor. Overcoming this series of problems would require a conservative counterrevolution on a scale that we've probably never seen in human history. It would require dismantling the entire network of government benefits and required corporate benefits to which Europe's citizens feel themselves entitled, making them dependent once again on themselves, their families, their neighbors, and their churches, for their social services. I suppose you can't rule out the possibility, but it seems awfully far-fetched.
Europe fell prey to the precise danger--which America has, thus far, better avoided--that was enunciated by many of the great conservative critics of democracy; its citizens, born with the inclination and suddenly finding themselves with the power, have voted themselves an ever greater share of other people's wealth while requiring ever less labor and social responsibility of themselves. In order to believe that Europe can reverse its century long decline, it is necessary to believe that it can overcome the natural acquisitiveness and selfishness of its citizens. This seems dubious enough even before you add in the disturbing decline of religion throughout Europe--a decline so complete that the Archbishop of Canterbury has referred to Britain as a post-Christian nation. In the absence of Judeo-Christian beliefs, from whence will come the morality and the ideology of freedom coupled with personal responsibility that would have to underpin such a counterrevolution? Certainly not from a gang of German and French bureaucrats.
THE SUN'LL COME OUT TOMORROW :Who Is Roger Hertog? : He's starting up a long-shot New York daily and funding The New Republic. But Hertog doesn't see himself as the vanguard of a new conservative movement -- yet. (Michael Tomasky, American Prospect)
[Seth Lipsky] chose the name Sun because the old Sun, whose most famous nineteenth-century editor was abolitionist Charles A. Dana, had, in Lipsky's view, high standards and a clear sense of mission. In the new Sun, which will publish five days a week, Lipsky hopes to bring that clarity to bear on a city that he believes still labors under the oppressive legacy of decades of liberal turpitude. "I don't feel that the crisis is over in New York," he said. "I don't feel it came upon this city with the attack on the World Trade Center, and I don't feel that it's over." Added managing editor Ira Stoll: "The debate is so skewed here. Where's the voice that's saying we need further reductions in taxes? Where's the voice that's saying we need to continue to take a hard look at rent control?"
Well, it's here. Hertog put up the initial money for the business plan; Steinhardt and the other investors, who include Conrad Black, a conservative Canadian press baron, came later. Hertog says all will be well if the paper has a circulation of 30,000 after a year. No one will talk money too specifically, of course, but one gets the sense that this is no Washington Times, drinking from a bottomless well of resources. The Sun's editorial operation is shoestring; its news-gathering staff numbers 10, including Lipsky and Stoll. Lipsky says he sees no point in "being a success d'estime without making a profit." The suggestion is that the circulation target is rather firm.
Watching to see whether the paper hits that mark should be fascinating business. New York does not, of course, lack for a conservative voice; the New York Post sees to that. But the Post's conservatism is suffused with the kinds of confused elements one might expect to find when servants (the editors) attempt to anticipate the whims of the master (Rupert Murdoch). Sometimes it's principled, sometimes it's knee-jerk. Other times it's nativist. Periodically it's tarted up with too much T & A. Overall it's more clearly consistent about what it doesn't approve of than what it does. One can expect, by contrast, that Lipsky and Stoll's Sun will be crystal clear about what it wants. It'll be the voice of this velvet conservatism, particularly on the domestic issues about which it's passionate, most of which are also urban: vouchers; education standards; sclerotic municipal unions; the accumulated state, local, and federal tax burden; and crime. These issues constitute the "crisis" to which Lipsky refers. He reckons himself its Paine and has a year to make 30,000 other people reckon likewise.
Readers of the fabulous Smarter Times have eagerly been awaiting the rising of the Sun for months now. It promises to offer, however temporarily, a distinctive and different take on the news from New York's other papers, but especially from the Times.
The Brothers are of the opinion that America is ill served by the supposed impartiality of its major media. No serious observer actually believes that the NY Times, LA Times, Boston Globe, NBC, ABC, CBS, etc. are neutral reporters of the news. The shared societal pretense that they are is deeply dishonest. It is absurd to believe that institutions where 80-90% of the reporters and editors vote Democrat can turn around and cover politics and culture fairly. This kind of ideological uniformity must, if nothing else, create a kind of echo chamber effect, where stories and issues get filtered through the only perspective available to them. Such outlets should just be honest with their audiences, acknowledge their Left partisanship, and let viewers/readers understand that the interpretation of the news being presented is just that, an interpretation, and one that is influenced by the politics of the interpreters.
It will then be incumbent on the Right to start providing the alternative interpretation--as is currently done only by the Washington Times and FOX News. FOX in particular has demonstrated the existence of a significant audience of conservative consumers starving for a more conservative product from the media. For obvious reasons the folks at FOX continue to refer to themselves as "fair and balanced", and, indeed, in an industry where the news is consistently presented with a liberal slant, to offer a more conservative one may well be to provide "balance". But FOX too should wear its politics on its sleeve. It is after all no coincidence that many of us could only watch the Florida debacle in 2000 unfold on FOX--it was because we knew we'd be more likely to hear what we wanted to hear there. Meanwhile, Democrats watched CNN for the same reason, though FOX and CNN viewers expected to hear diametrically opposed stories.
So we welcome the Sun, though we doubt its viability under current conditions, and hope that it is in the vanguard of a trend that will see greater and more open diversity in the political orientation of the press.
April 14, 2002
IDF AOK :Mike Daley calls our attention to the Israeli Defense Force's website, which is excellent, providing a wealth of information about Palestinian attacks on Israel and on Arafat's involvement..
ALL OF THE GOOD ONES ARE MARRIED :Earlier this week (Wednesday, April 10, 2002 : Mo vs. Evolution), we made fun of Maureen Dowd's hubristic column The Baby Bust
(MAUREEN DOWD, April 10, 2002, NY Times), the gist of which was that guys don't like her because she's too smart and powerful. The taking off point for her essay was a study showing that career women are less likely to find husbands and have kids. Ms Dowd seized upon the study as a way to castigate modern men as timid twerps, frightened by women who are their equals, or superiors.
So it's especially interesting to read this piece The White House Message Machine (Steve & Cokie Roberts, April 14, 2002, USA Weekend) about Karen Hughes, Torie Clarke, Charlotte Beers and Mary Matalin, four of the most powerful women in the world (only Laura Bush and Condi Rice are missing) who just happen to all be Republicans who, mirabile dictu, actually have families.
The war against terrorism is being fought on two fronts. One is the military campaign to root out "evildoers." But a second, equally important battle is being waged with words and images, not planes and mortars, and the aim is to influence public opinion across the globe. And in contrast to the military effort, the commanding officers of this front are women: Karen Hughes, 45; Mary Matalin, 48, assistant to the president and counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney; Victoria Clarke, 42, chief spokeswoman for the Pentagon; and Charlotte Beers, 66, undersecretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs. This is the first time so many women have been so influential in shaping America's image in the world, and it shows. [...]
"One of the things I try to do is bring a perspective of how normal people view the world," says Hughes, the mother of a 15-year-old boy. "It's very easy to sit in the White House and become very insulated. So I walk my dog and talk to my neighbors. At church, people will say things to me, and I go to the grocery store and I go to my son's soccer games at school, and on the sidelines I'm hearing what people are talking about."
Matalin, whose daughters are 3 and 6, agrees that women provide a different viewpoint because they have different responsibilities: "There's something a primary caregiver, particularly a working one, brings to the table." In Clarke's view, her three small children give her a parent's common-sense approach that constantly challenges the Pentagon culture: "At least five times a day I say, 'Look, I'm speaking for Joe Q. Public here!' " Beers raised a daughter while breaking through glass ceilings as an advertising executive, and she is used to pursuing unpopular ideas over the doubts of male colleagues.
It certainly seems that conservative babes have no problem snagging a guy and cranking out some kids while enjoying a career at the very pinnacle of power. Maybe it's not Ms Dowd's "power" that turns men off?
BRING ON THE ELECTION :The Real Foreign Policy Debate : It's not just Democrats versus Republicans. It's Locke versus Hobbes. (John B. Judis, American Prospect)
As had become apparent before 9-11, Bush has abandoned the internationalist perspective that shaped foreign policy in the first Bush and the Clinton administrations. Instead, Bush, influenced by his Pentagon rather than by his more internationalist State Department, has adopted a foreign policy based on a cramped view of American interests and a deeply pessimistic outlook on international relations.
Bush officials like Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz envisage an America surrounded by adversaries and potential adversaries who must be deterred by our superior military power. (In 1992, Wolfowitz authored a Pentagon strategy that included Germany and Japan as potential enemies.) Bush officials do not reject coalitions per se, but they do reject any idea of collective security. They have opposed both arms control and environmental agreements. They favor overseas intervention, but only when it is tied to a narrow definition of U.S. national interest. They don't like committing America to "nation-building," whether in the Balkans, Afghanistan, or the West Bank. For them, the September 11 attacks confirmed their views that a Hobbesian state of nature stirs beneath the post-Cold War calm. They see the war on terrorism not as a collective effort to rid the world of al-Qaeda, but as an American effort, aided by other countries, to destroy worldwide enemies.
Most Democrats, whatever their stand on Israel or Iraq, disagree with this approach. Democrats have not merely favored coalitions, they have seen alliances and international treaties as an essential aspect of U.S. foreign policy. Democrats seek collective security in order to create the economic and political stability in which America, as well as other nations, can prosper. They do not see a U.S. military monopoly as a prerequisite for security, but rather as a waste of precious resources -- and an invitation to future conflict. They believe that September 11 demonstrated that such security cannot be achieved unilaterally. But they also see the outbreak of Islamic terrorism as an eruption that -- like that of Nazism -- can be overcome. Theirs is a Lockean view of international relations -- of a world that eventually can be governed by social contracts rather than by the threat of force.
John B. Judis has always been one of the fairest writers on the Left; he's even written a well-balanced biography of William F. Buckley Jr.. But this column represents a truly remarkable achievement. He defends the Democrats' foreign policy and differentiates it from the Republicans, yet with the exception of his dubious assertion that Joe Biden is a serious man, there's not a single word that a conservative need quarrel with here. I believe he's absolutely right about the differences between the parties and I'd be more than happy to see them go to the polls in November espousing these world views.
Mr. Judis apparently believes that the Democrats could make some headway arguing that they are the party that trusts other countries with our security interests and trusts the State Department instead of the Pentagon. Meanwhile, the GOP would proclaim itself the party that puts America first and believes the generals over the diplomats. Who do you think would win?
THE SKY IS FALLING, THE SKY IS FALLING...AGAIN :Lost in the Wilderness : The Middle East gets worse and worse for the administration. (William Kristol & Robert Kagan, 04/12/2002, Weekly Standard)
Right now the Bush administration seems to be lost in the wilderness without a moral or strategic compass. This is a stunning development, for less than three months ago the president set forth a grand and clear vision for American foreign policy. We would fight terrorism and the regimes that support and harbor terrorists. We would press for freedom and democracy around the world, but especially in the Muslim world. Above all, when we saw evil, we would call it by its name. Now look how far we have moved away from those noble aspirations.
1. NEGOTIATING WITH TERRORISTS
As this magazine went to press on April 12, Secretary of State Colin Powell was in Jerusalem, where Yasser Arafat's Al Aksa Brigades had just set off another deadly bomb. This was only a day before Powell's planned meeting with Arafat. Amazingly, though it postponed any meeting for at least a day, the Bush administration still seemed inclined to have the American secretary of state meet with this terrorist leader. We don't use that term flippantly, as hyperbole, or even as an insult to Yasser Arafat. We are simply being descriptive: Arafat is a terrorist. [...]
Does President Bush still believe Yasser Arafat is a man with whom we can do business? Can we fight a war on terrorism while we seek to appease this proven sponsor of terrorism? The president will not find a way out of the wilderness until he finally realizes that the answer is no.
2. "THE SOLUTION WILL NOT BE PRODUCED BY TERROR OR THE RESPONSE TO TERROR."
Secretary Powell made this statement in Madrid last week. It was his way of saying that the Israeli military operation against the terrorist infrastructure in the Palestinian territories could not succeed. But its ramifications go far beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. [...]
The Bush administration will not find its way back out of the wilderness until it remembers the key principles of the war on terrorism. The question is not whether terrorists claim to be acting on behalf of a legitimate cause. Do the Palestinian people have legitimate aspirations? Of course they do. And Islamic fundamentalists also have aspirations which might be called legitimate. They think their countries should be run according to Islamic law. They think the West is poisoning their culture. They wish the Saudi royal family were out of power.
The question, though, is not what people want; it is what they do. If they kill innocents, if they murder civilians, if they walk into hotels and blow up Jews celebrating Passover, or if they fly passenger jets into the World Trade Center--that is terrorism. And that is what we are fighting against. Unfortunately, in the interest of currying favor with the Arab states, the Bush administration has seriously blurred the purpose, the meaning, and the justification for our war on terrorism. Instead of demanding that Israel halt its war on terrorism, President Bush should be demanding a return to clarity by his own advisers.
3. SADDAM'S VICTORY
The big winner in the current fiasco will probably not be Yasser Arafat. We believe Arafat's days are numbered as a major player in the Middle East. No, the victor right now seems to be Saddam Hussein. Thanks in large part to the administration's mishandling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict--which began with Vice President Cheney's trip to the region almost a month ago--the Arab states are much less inclined to be helpful in any effort against Iraq. Now, we've always believed that most Arab states will have no choice but to go along once President Bush makes his decision. We still believe that.
There's always been a key weakness at the core of neoconservatism : it isn't actually conservative, it's just a variant of liberalism that's hawkish where Israel is concerned. Their fetish for Teddy Roosevelt and their advocacy of "National Greatness" makes them the heirs of Nelson Rockefeller, not of Ronald Reagan. This tends to put neoconservatives and conservatives at odds more frequently than allies should be. Every time the rest of the Republican Party wants to do something conservative, particularly on social issues, the neocons distance themselves from the Party. (Mr. Kristol has sagely tried to remedy this somewhat with his recent crusade against cloning, which is fine, except that the neocon cloning position almost completely contradicts their generally pro-abortion position.) And any time a Republican does not put Israeli concerns at the forefront of his thoughts, he gets denounced. The tone of the essay above is fairly typical of these denunciations, with the neocons accusing the conservative of betraying everything he believes in if his views diverge from theirs on the issue of Israel at all.
What makes this all especially annoying is first of all their failure to comprehend that Christian conservatives, whom they seem to disdain, are generally fanatic pro-Zionists. A good measure of this comes from the fundamentalist belief that the Second Coming requires Jews to be in control of the Holy Land, but whatever its source it is quite real. Even worse, while the neocons feel free to jump ship on issues of importance to the conservative movement, you seldom hear conservatives accuse them of betrayal. Heck, they turned the Weekly Standard into a John McCain fanzine during the 2000 primaries, despite his naked pandering to the Left, but few voices on the Right were raised against them. And William Safire even voted for Bill Clinton in '92, but no one read him out of the movement. No, this is entirely a one way street--they feel no obligation to stand with us on any issue, but we have to ape their line on Israel, or else.
So then you read this column from the Weekly Standard and your eyes just glaze over. Every two weeks since September 11th they have to warn us that we're about to lose the war. First we were going to lose in Afghanistan, then we were going to fail to take on Saddam, now we're also going to stab Israel in the back. All of it is just idiotic.
I've made most of these points here already, so excuse the repetition, but :
(1) Negotiating with Terrorists : In the first place, Arafat should no longer be seen as a terrorist. He's the leader of Palestine. The bombings aren't acts of terrorism; they're acts of war. If Israel refuses to declare and wage the war, there isn't much we can do. So long as they claim to want a negotiated peace, we're stuck working for one with them. After all, it's not like we decided it would be great to sit down with Arafat and start negotiating. The Israelis needed us to broker a deal and we've tried, but these are fundamentally negotiations between Israel and Arafat; we're just the mediator. If the neocons have a problem with negotiating with Arafat, their quarrel is with Israel and its leaders, not with the administration.
(2) Powell on Israel's Response : He's right, of course; the Israeli response has been half-hearted and counterproductive. It is not we who need to learn from the Israelis, but they who need to learn from us. When we went into Afghanistan we took out not just al Qaeda but the Taliban too. If Israel seeks to take out individual bombing operations but to leave Arafat in place, their operation will achieve nothing except to further radicalize the already deranged Arab world. On seeing the fecklessness of Israel's response, what could an intelligent military man do but tell them to scrap it?
Until Israel gets serious, we, as their loyal ally, are pretty much stuck pursuing the incoherent policy that they've adopted. But make no mistake, the ambivalence stems from them at least as much as us.
(3) Saddam's Victory : If you can make sense of this point please feel free to explain it to me. First they acknowledge that Arafat is toast, which would seem to make all that went before rather pointless. They can only have been complaining about the pace of his demise, since they assume it's coming no matter what. Then they claim that Saddam is winning because Arab "allies" will be less eager to co-operate in the war against him, except that in the next breath they say these countries have no real choice and will go along anyway. If that's Saddam's big victory I think we can afford to give him one.
April 13, 2002
PLEASE! PLEASE! DON'T THROW US IN THAT BRIAR PATCH! :In a Forceful Speech, Gore Criticizes Administration (Richard L. Berke, April 14, 2002, NY Times)
"I'm tired of this right-wing sidewind," Mr. Gore said to the 2,500 partisans here for the Florida Democratic Convention. "I've had it. America's economy is suffering unnecessarily. Important American values are being trampled. Special interests are calling the shots."
On the environment, the economy and values, he said, "this administration is following the same pattern: selling out America's future in return for short-term political gains."
Mr. Gore even dared to do what many Democrats had said he was afraid of doing in the 2000 campaign: embrace President Bill Clinton.
"I think Bill Clinton and I did a damn good job," Mr. Gore said, practically shouting.
While Mr. Gore has spoken numerous times in the 16 months since the acrimonious 36-day standoff over the counting of votes in Florida and offered sharp criticism of Mr. Bush at a meeting of Democrats in Tennessee, his home state, in February his address here carried particular weight because this was the first political event he has attended with other Democrats who have designs on the White House.
It was also a crucial first test of whether Democratic loyalists here would stand behind him in a rematch with Mr. Bush in 2004. His certainly received a hero's welcome, with delegates often jumping from their feet and waving placards proclaiming, "Still Gore Country!" over an outline of the state of Florida.
While he did not declare that he was running, Mr. Gore seemed very much the candidate today. He drew some of his biggest cheers when he scolded Mr. Bush for not sharing information with Congress and the public. "America's policies should be decided in the open and not in secret back room meetings where average citizens get the door slammed in their face while polluters get the welcome mat," he said. "Let's have a little Florida sunshine."
And Mr. Gore could not resist analogies with the nearby Walt Disney World. "They're the party of Fantasy Land; we're the party of Tomorrow Land," he said. "We're the party of Main Street U.S.A.; they're the party of Pirates of Enron."
There was a time not so long ago when losing a presidential election was perfectly honorable and not much hindrance to one's career. Within the past sixty years, Thomas E. Dewey, Adlai Stevenson, and Richard Nixon all got renominated after losing previously. And, mind you, Gore actually won, for cripes sake. Simple fairness would seem to weigh in favor of giving him a rematch. But it seems unlikely that we're still the kind of country that has some patience with party leaders if they fail once. So it seems unlikely, despite the enormous advantages that he starts out with, that Al Gore will be the 2004 nominee. But, boy, you have to hope he is.
Here's the key question Democrats have to ask themselves : is there a single American voter who is more likely to vote for Gore now than they were in 2000? And how many are likely to feel more comfortable with Bush than they were then? If you just replay that election, with the changed circumstances of Bush's incumbency and a war in progress, or concluded successfully, you have to think it would be disastrous for the Democrats.
I might have to send him a campaign contribution...
HUNTINGTON ON A ROLL :Looking the World in the Eye (Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly | December 2001)
The most memorable review that Samuel Phillips Huntington, the Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor at Harvard, ever got was a bad one. "Imagine," Huntington recalled recently, sitting in his home on Boston's Beacon Hill. "The first review of my first book, and the reviewer compares me unfavorably to Mussolini." He blinked and squinted shyly through his eyeglasses. Huntington, seventy-four, speaks in a serene and nasal voice, the East Bronx modified by high Boston. He described how the reviewer, Matthew Josephson, writing in the left-wing opinion magazine The Nation, had ridiculed the militarism and "brutal sophistries" of The Soldier and the State and had sneered that Mussolini's sentiments had been similar though his words had more panache: "Believe, obey, fight!"
The review was published on April 6, 1957. The Cold War was scarcely a decade old. The Soldier and the State constituted a warning: America's liberal society, Huntington argued, required the protection of a professional military establishment steeped in conservative realism. In order to keep the peace, military leaders had to take for granted—and anticipate—the "irrationality, weakness, and evil in human nature." Liberals were good at reform, not at national security. "Magnificently varied and creative when limited to domestic issues," Huntington wrote, "liberalism faltered when applied to foreign policy and defense." Foreign policy, he explained, is not about the relationship among individuals living under the rule of law but about the relationship among states and other groups operating in a largely lawless realm. The Soldier and the State concluded with a rousing defense of West Point, which, Huntington wrote, "embodies the military ideal at its best ... a bit of Sparta in the midst of Babylon.
Chalk up another one for Samuel Huntington, who has already claimed the award for correctly predicting the zeitgeist with his book The Clash of Civilizations. As Robert Kaplan wrote several months ago, in this very fine profile (far better than anything in Warrior Politics) of Mr. Huntington, the book The Soldier and the State provides an ideal guide to understanding how the essentially conservative military can frequently serve as a better guarantor of the liberal democratic state then do self-avowed liberals, an assertion which recent events in Venezuela have once again proven true.
Perhaps no idea is more difficult for folks to wrap their arms around than that the imposition of order--most often by the military, as in Spain, Chile, Turkey, etc.--may be more important to the eventual triumph of liberty than is the continuation of a freedom which is deteriorating into chaos. Distrust of state power is a healthy thing in a democracy, but the hysterical opposition to its ever being used, as has greeted some of John Ashcroft's measures, is just as dangerous in the long run, if not more so. The Venezuelan military might have earned the plaudits of liberals by staying on the sidelines even if it meant allowing Hugo Chavez to destroy the country, but they'd not have served Venezuela nor its people well.
OUR SMARTEST PRESIDENT? :Clinton Says Leaders' Obstinacy Is Harming Mideast's Children (REUTERS, April 13, 2002)
"The bullheaded leaders' inability to make peace is resulting in the slaughter of their young people," Mr. Clinton said, noting that half the 2,000 people killed in the last 19 months of violence were children.
How many profiles of Bill Clinton have you read that have as their second sentence : "Despite which, he is universally acknowledged to be one of our smartest presidents, even a political genius"?
Yet he made a total hash out of the easiest eight year period to be president in American history and every time he opens his mouth something stupid comes out. How smart can the guy be?
So here we have our most faithful ally, Israel, about to be plunged into a war of national survival and the Palestinians, whose national aspirations Bill Clinton has always claimed to share, being led like lambs to the slaughter by Yasir Arafat, and what does the genius have to say? It's bad for the kids.
Could the man be any more trivial?
THE PARADIGM DONE GONE :The Bush Doctrine, R.I.P. (Frank Rich, 4/13/02, NY Times)
As a statement of principle set forth by an American chief executive, the now defunct Bush Doctrine may have had a shelf life even shorter than Kenny Boy's Enron code of ethics. As a statement of presidential intent, it may land in the history books alongside such magisterial moments as Lyndon Johnson's 1964 pledge not to send American boys to Vietnam and Richard Nixon's 1968 promise to "bring us together."
It was in September that the president told Congress that "from this day forward any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime." It was in November that he told the United Nations that "there is no such thing as a good terrorist." Now the president is being assailed even within his own political camp for not only refusing to label Yasir Arafat a terrorist but judging him good enough to be a potential partner in our desperate effort to tamp down the flames of the Middle East.
Humans seem to find life easiest to understand when approached metaphorically. For instance, the story of Man's Fall provides our understanding of human nature and Darwinism provides our understanding of evolution, even though both are more literary metaphors than scientific reality. So, in the Middle East, it has been helpful for the Left to understand the actions of the Palestinians these last thirty-five years as a struggle for independence and for the Right to understand them as terrorist acts. But the stubborn persistence of these metaphorical understandings in now doing us all a disservice.
The Palestinian people have had a state in all but name for several years now. They won that struggle. Yasir Arafat is no longer just the head of some terrorist cell, like the head of the Red Brigades or the Symbionese Liberation Army, he's the ruler of the Palestinian people, responsible for the actions of the state he controls and for the policy they pursue. Subsequent attacks on Israel have been acts of war. They need to be treated as such.
It is obviously in Israel's best interest, and in ours, for them to find some way to coexist (relatively) peacefully with their Arab neighbors. To that end both Israel and the US have cut Yasar Arafat a tremendous amount of slack, in the hope that he would settle for nationhood. This has required Israel to react more cautiously than it probably should have to attacks by Palestinian bombers. And it requires us to treat Arafat like any other head of a state with which we're trying to do business. But it finally seems like we stand on the brink of that moment where we will be forced to come to terms with the refusal of the Palestinians to accept mere statehood and realize that what they truly want, as their charter has so long stated, is to destroy Israel.
Arafat is not called a terrorist by the White House because he ceased to be a terrorist when he took control of Palestine. Since then he's been just like every other tin-pot dictator throughout history who holds power through violence against his own people and distracts them from their plight by whipping up war against a neighbor. Like the rest of those tyrannts, he requires a perpetual state of war or else his people will discard him and choose a government capable of providing the decent life we all expect in peacetime. Arafat's choice now, as it has been for several years, is between surrendering power for the good of his people or maintaining personal power regardless of the consequences to his people. Does anyone seriously doubt which he'll choose?
The Israeli-Palestinian war (soon to be known as the Three Days War) when it comes will shock folks like Frank Rich, who still delude themselves that this is a matter of patriotic freedom fighters using excessive means to win their struggle against an evil occupying force, and who will look around and try to figure out how come there are instead suddenly two sovereign peoples fighting an entirely traditional war. But there will be nothing sudden about it--the metaphors changed several years ago, it's just taking the NY Times and many others an absurdly long time to catch up.
THE TRUTH THAT DARE NOT SPEAK ITS NAME :Ten Myths about Priestly Pedophilia (Deal W. Hudson, Publisher and editor, CRISIS Magazine)
1. Catholic priests are more likely to be pedophiles than other groups of men.
This is just plain false. There's absolutely no evidence that priests are more likely to abuse children than are other groups of men. The use and abuse of children as objects for the sexual gratification of adults is epidemic in all classes, professions, religions, and ethnic communities across the globe, as figures on child pornography, incest, and child
prostitution make abundantly clear. Pedophilia (the sexual abuse of a prepubescent child) among priests is extremely rare, affecting only 0.3% of the entire population of clergy. This figure, cited in the book Pedophiles and Priests by non-Catholic scholar, Philip Jenkins, is from the most comprehensive study to date, which found that only one out of 2,252 priests considered over a thirty-year period was afflicted with pedophilia. In the recent Boston scandal, only four of the more than eighty priests labeled by the media as "pedophiles" are actually guilty of molesting young children.
Pedophilia is a particular type of compulsive sexual disorder in which an adult (man or woman) abuses prepubescent children. The vast majority of the clerical sex-abuse scandals now coming to light do not involve pedophilia. Rather, they involve ephebophilia -- homosexual attraction to adolescent boys. While the total number of sexual abusers in the priesthood is much higher than those guilty of pedophilia, it still amounts to less than 2 percent -- comparable to the rate among married men (Jenkins, Pedophiles and Priests).
In the wake of the current crisis in the Church, other religious denominations and non-religious institutions have admitted to having similar problems with both pedophilia and ephebophilia among the ranks of their clergy. There's no evidence that Catholic prelates are more likely to be pedophiles than Protestant ministers, Jewish leaders, physicians, or any other institution in which adults are in a position of authority and power over children.
6. Homosexuality isn't connected to pedophilia.
This is plainly false. Homosexuals are three times as likely to be pedophiles as heterosexual men. Although exclusive pedophilia (adult attraction to prepubescent children) is an extreme and rare phenomenon, one third of homosexual men are attracted to teenage boys (Jenkins, Priests and Pedophilia). The seduction of teenage boys by homosexual men is a well-documented phenomenon. This form of deviant behavior is the most common type of clerical abuse and is directly connected to homosexual behavior.
As Michael Rose shows in his upcoming book, Goodbye! Good Men, there's an active homosexual sub-culture within the Church. This is due to several factors. The Church's confusion in the wake of the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the tumult following the Second Vatican Council, and the greater approval of homosexual behavior in the culture at large created an environment in which active homosexual men were admitted to and tolerated in the priesthood. The Church also came to rely more on the psychiatric profession for screening candidates and for treating those priests identified as having problems. In 1973, the American Psychological Association changed its characterization of homosexuality as an objectively disordered orientation and removed it from the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual IV (Nicolosi, J., 1991, Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality, 1991; Diamond, E., et. al., Homosexuality and Hope, unpublished CMA document). The treatment of deviant sexual behaviors followed suit.
While the Church's approach to those who struggle with homosexual attractions has been compassionate, she has been consistent in maintaining the view that homosexuality is objectively disordered and that marriage between a man and woman is the proper context for sexual activity.
8. The Church's teaching on sexual morality is the real problem, not pedophilia.
The Church's teaching on sexual morality is rooted in the dignity of the human person and the goodness of human sexuality. This teaching condemns the sexual abuse of children in all its forms, just as it condemns other reprehensible sexual crimes such as rape, incest, child pornography, and child prostitution. In other words, if this teaching were lived out, there'd be no pedophilia problem at all.
The notion that this teaching somehow leads to pedophilia is based on a misunderstanding or deliberate misrepresentation of Catholic sexual morality. The Church recognizes that sexual activity without the love and commitment found uniquely in marriage undermines the dignity of the human person and is ultimately destructive. As far as celibacy is concerned, centuries of experience have proven that men and women can abstain from sexual activity while living fulfilling, healthy, and meaningful lives.
It goes without saying that the priests who commited these crimes should go to prison, the pedophiles forever, and we must condemn the role that members of the Church hierarchy have played in covering up the problem of priestly sexual abuse, but the enemies of the Catholic Church have latched on to the current scandal for the entirely different purpose of discrediting religious teachings. Their attack requires them to treat this phenomenon as some kind of inevitable result of celibacy, as if the effort required in restraining one's normal desires necessarily ended up leading to sexual deviancy. From what we know so far though it appears that what the Church has on its hands is something quite different, the problem appears to lie not in doctrine but in the deviants themselves.
There's no need to engage here in a discussion of the morality of homosexuality, it suffices that the Church teaches that homosexuality deviates from accepted norms of behavior. The knowing acceptance of homosexuals into positions of spiritual leadership in the Church can not help but end in catastrophe. There must after all be some likelihood that a priest who can't reconcile himself to the Church's teachings on human sexuality in one area will be more likely to disregard it in other areas too, mustn't there?
Yet it is almost unthinkable in this day and age that commentators would address this crisis forthrightly, as predominantly a problem of homosexuality, rather than one of religiosity. And so does modernity require us to mouth pretty lies to one another while pathologies rage on beneath the "I'm OK, You're OK" surface.
RIGHTS & PRIVILEGES :Cellular disconnect : Opponents of human cloning are playing with people's lives (Michael Kinsley, April 8, 2002, SLATE.COM)
The opposition to therapeutic cloning among religious conservatives is easy to understand and even easy to respect, in a way. They believe that a microscopic clump of a few dozen cells, as self-aware as a block of wood, has the same human worth and rights as you or me. If that's true, then cloning embryos to extract stem cells would be just like breeding children in order to harvest their organs and body parts. And therefore better to let your mother suffer or die from a potentially curable disease than to create and destroy that clump. A gruesome but courageous position. And if you buy the initial premise, it all makes sense.
Maybe it's just me but that characterization doesn't actually sound respectful. Of course it doesn't accurately reflect the entirety of the religious conservative objection to cloning either. It's easy to get yourself tangled up in knots arguing about the "rights" of cells, embryos, fetuses, brain dead humans, the elderly, criminals, and all the others whose quality of life we place little enough value on that we've contemplated killing or do in fact kill, and it tends not to be very productive. So let's try approaching the question from the opposite angle. From whence derives the imagined "right" of Michael Kinsley or my mother to treat these at least nascent humans as so many blocks of wood?
It may well be the case that after careful consideration, debate, and subjection to the political pressures of the legislative process we will decide as a society that we do want to experiment on embryos and even full clones, that our desire to prolong our own lives outweighs our concerns for what are after all only potential lives. But even should we so decide, it will be important to realize that there will still be no "right" to treat these beings as blocks of wood but rather a state created privilege to do so, one that should and probably will be rather strictly circumscribed. For the default position of a decent society must always be that it is wrong to take a life--there are, of course, exceptions, but they are exceptions (privileges), not the rule (a right).
If we keep sufficient state control over the processes they might not even degenerate into the worst-case scenarios that we religious conservatives so fear. While if we fail to impose some restrictions as quickly as possible we can confidently forecast that scenarios wil be realized that will presumably make even Mr. Kinsley feel uncomfortable.
DEATH TO MORK :The smoochy parables (Maggie Gallagher, April 10, 2002, TownHall.com)
Quick, run to the theater and see "Death to Smoochy" before it dies the death of a thousand critic bites. Roger Ebert gave it a major thumbs down: "In all the annals of the movies, few films have been this odd, inexplicable and unpleasant."
Odd, yes. I have never seen Hollywood make a movie like this. The film is a parody not of children's TV so much as people who hate children's TV -- an out-and-out attack on pseudo-sophisticates who despise the pretenses of adults that make childhood innocence possible. Call a movie like that "Death to Smoochy," slap on a well-deserved R rating (for sexual references, cartoon violence and profanity), and what do you expect? The people who show up to hoot at Barney's demise are bound to be sorely disappointed. [...]
"Death to Smoochy" is only a humorous Hollywood film, with cartoon villains and slapshot comedy. But what makes it funny is the dead-on shot it takes at a society where too many adults see protecting the kids as someone else's job, and the too many of us also tempted to believe that grit, corruption and despair are somehow more authentic, more interesting, more real than faith, hope and charity.
Thanks to a surfeit of kids, we won't be running to the theater, but this delightfully contrarian take on the film does vastly increase the likelihood that we'll rent it when it comes out on DVD--which, from the savagery of the other reviews, sounds like it could be as soon as next week. If nothing else it is always a pleasure to root against the vile Robin Williams.
April 12, 2002
TICKETS TO PARADISE :Saudi Telethon Raises Millions for Palestinians (Associated Press, 4/12/02)
A princess donated her Rolls-Royce, one woman gave up her dowry and other Saudis poured millions of dollars into a fund to help families of Palestinian "martyrs" in a nationwide telethon Thursday.
Wheelchair-bound children braved unseasonable rain in Riyadh, the capital, to drop cash into plastic boxes outside the state-run television station, which, along with the radio, was organizing the drive. Long lines of cars jammed the area, with drivers giving cash, gold jewelry and clothes to volunteers with collection bags.
In the first five hours of the 11-hour fund-raising campaign, $11.9 million had been donated. "We love you," said Sheik Saleh bin Hussein Ayed, a member of the Islamic Affairs Ministry, addressing the Palestinians during the telethon. "We cannot forget you or ignore what's happening to you by the [Israeli] aggressors."
The event, ordered by King Fahd and broadcast live by local and Saudi-owned satellite channels, aims to help relatives of "martyrs," a term that has been used by the Palestinians to refer to anyone killed by Israelis or in operations against Israel--including suicide bombers.
You'll have to forgive me if I'm a little confused here, but as a Christian I'd like nothing better than to enter Heaven one day. If you promised me that's where I was headed and the wife and kids could either go with me or meet me there, I'd be ready to go.
In Islam, we're told, martyrs get to go straight to Paradise. And the entire Islamic world apparently considers anyone the Israelis kill to be a martyr. So maybe you can explain this to me, if we're being respectful of Islamic beliefs, why is it a bad thing for the Israelis to kill them?
FREEDOM FOR WHAT? :Closeting U.S. spies : Publisher Roger Straus and his Cold War partnership with U.S. intelligence (Jack Shafer, 4/09/02, SLATE.COM)
Here's more evidence that the '70s are over. Last week, when The New Yorker helped publisher Roger Straus out himself and his company, Farrar, Straus & Co., as closeters of American spies during the Cold War, no publication or Web site aggregated by either Nexis or Google wrote a word about it. (Victor Navasky, call your office!)
Writer Ian Parker delivers the spooks scoop at about the 3,600-word mark of his 9,200-word puff profile of Straus (Showboat: Roger Straus and his flair for selling literature, April 8, 2002, The New Yorker). Parker writes that Straus discloses for the first time in public his decadelong partnership with an unnamed U.S. intelligence agency, which ran from the postwar '40s to the mid-'50s. [...]
Does Anybody Care? Judging from the silence greeting the scoop - and The New Yorker's willingness to bury it - I reckon that Parker is right. Nobody is surprised. Nobody cares. Not even the left. But it was wrong for the government to ask Straus for cover, and anything but patriotic for him to surrender his independence by agreeing.
In the first place, this column is offensive for the way in which Mr. Shafer impugns the reputation of America's Cold War spies in general and Mr. Straus in particular. The use of such loaded terms as "out himself" and "closeters", with their implications of homosexual shame, is despicable. I've no idea of the sexuality of any of the men involved, nor do I care, but the idea that they needed to be or were ashamed of their wartime service to the nation is appalling.
Meanwhile, Mr. Shafer's high dudgeon over the lack of outrage at their service reflects one of the most serious and widespread misunderstandings of the Constitution. Mr. Shafer apparently believes that maintaining the absolute purity of freedom of the press from any government influence is more important than the very survival of that government. (And in what can only be considered an instance of sheer self-importance, he seems to think it wrong for government to ask a pressman to sacrifice a small measure of independence at a time when it was asking tens of thousands of young men to sacrifice their lives, in Korea, in Vietnam, and elsewhere.) This is, to say the least, an odd way of construing the purposes of the Founders and the Constitution they handed down to us.
Perhaps it would be helpful to refer to the Preamble to the Constitution, which explains the intent of the drafters :
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Note that their aim was to establish a sustainable union which would enable its people to enjoy certain blessings, but that they understood that the state was necessary to secure these blessings. Their focus was not on rights as such, but on creating a well-ordered republic, in which these rights could thrive. In the absence of Order, Union, Justice, Tranquility, and security all rights are illusory; one may assert them but there is no system by which to vindicate them. Folks like Mr. Shafer, and they are all too prevalent these days, make a grave mistake when they seek to elevate a right, like freedom of the press, into an absolute, sufficient unto itself, without regard for the consequences.
Mr. Straus was a patriot, who, when asked, did his part to preserve the United States of America and to defend the Constitution. He understood that, just as we all surrender some measure of liberty when we forge the nation in the first place, during a time of World War it may well be necessary to compromise one's personal liberty in order to preserve the freedom of the nation. Those who refuse to do the former are likely to end up losing the latter. What a paltry, and Pyrrhic victory Mr. Shafer would have had Mr. Straus win by selfishly refusing to serve his country in time of danger.
TRUST, BUT VERIFY :Towards a Victorious Libertarian Revolution (Manuel Miles, April 2002, The Texas Mercury)
[O]ne must be clear on what Libertarians believe:
1. We oppose all offensive wars, no matter the excuse. Troops not on their own soil are invaders, period.
2. We oppose all attacks on the unalienable rights with which all men are endowed by their Creator, in wartime equally as much as in peace.
3. We oppose not only the expansion of restrictive statist bureaucracies, but their very existence.
4. We oppose all attacks on any religion, especially attempts by governments to license, supervise, tax, or in any other way restrict religious organisations.
5. We oppose all fraud and coercion by whom or what ever.
Given a choice between a libertarian or a liberal, I suppose I'd take a libertarian, they'd at least leave you alone. But there's one dangerous delusion that the two share that makes both unfit for governance. Both libertarianism and liberalism (the modern Leftist version, not classical Liberalism) take as their starting premise the manifestly erroneous idea that Man is fundamentally good, a creature whose dearest wish is to live in peace with his neighbors, if only the nasty accretions of civilization--either government if you are a libertarian or unfair economic systems if you are a liberal--had not intervened and corrupted our natures. Conservatism on the other hand, with its basis in Judeo-Christianity, is premised on the all too frequently proven fact that Man is an unfortunate admixture of good and evil, and that left to his own devices one man will practice evil upon another for his own advantage.
The libertarian delusion here leads Mr. Miles into a box wherein he asserts the sanctity of "unalienable rights" (#2), religious belief (#4) and freedom from coercion (#5), but then deprives himself of the means--war in the international sphere (#1) and police power in the domestic sphere (#3)--to vindicate these values. It is possible to admire the faith and touching naivete of the man who abjures the means of defending himself, while insisting that if the rest of us understood our true natures we wouldn't want to hurt him in the first place, but it is difficult to take him seriously as a political philosopher. Such is the stuff of saints, while we are sinners.
DEUS LO VOLT! :The Real History of the Crusades (Thomas F. Madden)
Misconceptions about the Crusades are all too common. The Crusades are generally portrayed as a series of holy wars against Islam led by power-mad popes and fought by religious fanatics. They are supposed to have been the epitome of self-righteousness and intolerance, a black stain on the history of the Catholic Church in particular and Western civilization in general. A breed of proto-imperialists, the Crusaders introduced Western aggression to the peaceful Middle East and then deformed the enlightened Muslim culture, leaving it in ruins. [...]
So what is the truth about the Crusades? Scholars are still working some of that out. But much can already be said with certainty. For starters, the Crusades to the East were in every way defensive wars. They were a direct response to Muslim aggression, an attempt to turn back or defend against Muslim conquests of Christian lands.
Christians in the eleventh century were not paranoid fanatics. Muslims really were gunning for them. While Muslims can be peaceful, Islam was born in war and grew the same way. From the time of Mohammed, the means of Muslim expansion was always the sword. Muslim thought divides the world into two spheres, the Abode of Islam and the Abode of War. Christianity--and for that matter any other non-Muslim religion--has no abode. Christians and Jews can be tolerated within a Muslim state under Muslim rule. But, in traditional Islam, Christian and Jewish states must be destroyed and their lands conquered. When Mohammed was waging war against Mecca in the seventh century, Christianity was the dominant religion of power and wealth. As the faith of the Roman Empire, it spanned the entire Mediterranean, including the Middle East, where it was born. The Christian world, therefore, was a prime target for the earliest caliphs, and it would remain so for Muslim leaders for the next thousand years.
With enormous energy, the warriors of Islam struck out against the Christians shortly after Mohammed's death. They were extremely successful. Palestine, Syria, and Egypt--once the most heavily Christian areas in the world--quickly succumbed. By the eighth century, Muslim armies had conquered all of Christian North Africa and Spain. In the eleventh century, the Seljuk Turks conquered Asia Minor (modern Turkey), which had been Christian since the time of St. Paul. The old Roman Empire, known to modern historians as the Byzantine Empire, was reduced to little more than Greece. In desperation, the emperor in Constantinople sent word to the Christians of western Europe asking them to aid their brothers and sisters in the East.
That is what gave birth to the Crusades. They were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope or rapacious knights but a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world. At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense.
The most distasteful part of political correctness and multiculturalism is the way in which it requires us to repudiate our own history and cultural achievements. It's bad enough when this merely distorts the reality of what happened in the past, but it is truly dangerous when we allow it to obscure the reality of the present. We see one manifestation of this effect in current Israeli/Palestinian confrontation, where commentators persist in pretending that the Palestinians are some kind of indigenous people who the foreign Jews came in and displaced unjustly. If we're going to go back fifty years and wallow in Palestinian grievances why not go back a thousand years and air our own? The Palestinians were occupiers long before they became the occupied; let us not grant them the status of aggrieved victims in this whole mess.
MORE LIKE EUROPE ? :If Turkey wants to be part of Europe, it has to adhere to European standards of national behavior (Philip Terzian, April 11, 2002, Jewish World Review)
The European Union has been admirably firm: Turkey is welcome to apply for membership in the EU, but only after withdrawal from Cyprus and basic reforms in its authoritarian style of government, which is unofficially run by the army. Despite Turkey's membership in NATO, and close ties to Israel and the Pentagon, the European Union has stood on principle in the matter, as it should. But it is not for nothing that those European officers cite Turkey's occupation of Cyprus, and treatment of its Kurdish minority at home, as evidence that the Turkish army is not quite ready for prime time in Kabul.
This is one instance where the Bush administration could make a genuine difference. In the midst of the war against terrorism, and the Israeli-Palestinian explosion, Cyprus is not high on the list of priorities in Washington. But if American policymakers are determined to orient Turkey toward the West, substantial progress could be made if Washington put pressure on Ankara to do the right thing in Cyprus. If Turkey wants to be part of Europe, it has to adhere to European standards of national behavior. That applies to keeping the peace in neighboring Afghanistan, ending the tragic division of an independent Cyprus -- and who knows? even facing the truth about the Armenian genocide.
Mr. Terzian, who is capable of writing some insightful columns, here pens a risible one. The idea that it is important to either Turkey's future or ours for it to become a member of the godawful EU is just ridiculous. Like the chicken that races around a barnyard even after its head has been chopped off, Europe still appears to have some life in it, but it's actually in its death throes. Individually the nations of Europe face a series of fatal difficulties ranging from their post-Christian morality to their declining birth rates to their increasing dependence on non-European menial laborers to their unsupportable social welfare systems. The future of Europe seems likely to consist of economic and moral decline and race war. Rather than address these problems they have instead moved towards European Union which will do little more than impose an additional layer of authoritarian bureaucracy on nations that are already on a collision course with collapse.
On the positive side, Europe ceased to matter during the 20th Century as its populations fell prey to the most dangerous aspect of democracy, the ability of a majority of voters to slather ever greater government benefits upon themselves while decreasing their own responsibilities. As predicted by philosophers from de Tocqueville to Ortega y Gasset this tyranny of the majority or revolt of the masses has destroyed the cultures that have succumbed. Thankfully, with their hollow militaries and their diminishing stocks of young people, the Europeans are less and less significant geopolitical players, so we can stand aside as the continent collapses in upon itself.
Turkey, on the other hand, is a vital strategic interest of the United States for several reasons. First, along with several other newly important allies--Israel, Russia, and India--it helps to form a ring of powerfully fortified states surrounding the Arab world. If, as seems ever more likely, Islam and the West (in which it is no longer necessary nor appropriate to include Europe) are headed for full scale conflict, these countries will be far more important and are already far more reliable than the formerly Great Powers of Europe. Second, Turkey represents the most hopeful experiment currently underway in the progress of an Islamofascist state towards liberal capitalist democracy. While it is true that it was a military leader (Attaturk) who imposed Western ideas upon the nation and that the military has had to intervene periodically to depose certain governments that it felt had gone astray, Turkey nonetheless has struggled valiantly to maintain democracy or something resembling it. It serves as both an example of what kind of society the dictatorships of the Middle East could evolve towards and a reminder of how difficult that process will be.
It's actually quite appalling of Mr. Terzian to say that Turkey has failed to meet European standards in the past. Turkey's government is at least as stable as Italy's. Its treatment of the Kurds no worse than Britain's historic treatment of the Irish, Spain's treatment of the Basques, or our own treatment of the Native Americans. Observers more savvy than I (a number which is admittedly legion) have debunked many of the claims about the "Armenian genocide" but even if all of the most extravagant claims are true, has Turkey been less willing to face the truth as regards the Armenians than has France been willing to face the truth of its collaboration with Hitler and its cooperation in the genocide of its Jewish population? Turkey deserves our friendship and assistance, perhaps even membership in NAFTA would be appropriate, not diktats about how it should be more like Germany or France or even us.
THE MAN WHO MADE NIXON LOOK ATTRACTIVE :Questions for Mr. Bush (George McGovern, April 11, 2002, The Nation)
No longer in government, I do not have the benefit of national security briefings or Congressional committee deliberations. So perhaps instead of making assertions, it may be more appropriate for me to ask some questions that have been on my mind both before and since September 11.
Which course might produce better results in advancing American security? Is it by continuing to boycott, diplomatically and commercially, such countries as Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Libya and Cuba and threatening to bomb them? Or would we be better off opening up diplomatic, trade and travel relations with these countries, including a well-staffed embassy in each? If we are fearful of a country and doubtful of its intentions, wouldn't we be safer having an embassy with professional foreign service officers located in that country to tell us what is going on?
Our leaders frequently speak of "rogue nations." But what is a rogue nation? [...]
Instead of adding $48 billion to the Pentagon budget, as the President has proposed, wouldn't we make the world a more stable, secure place if we invested half of that sum in reducing poverty, ignorance, hunger and disease in the world? [...]
Acting on the old adage "charity begins at home," why not invest the other half of the proposed new money for the Pentagon in raising the educational, nutritional, housing and health standards of our own people? [...]
[I]s sending our bombers worldwide in the hope that they might hit terrorist hideouts or such hostile governments as Iraq an effective way to end terrorism?
The Administration now has seventy-five officials hidden in bunkers outside Washington poised to take over the government in the event of a terrorist attack. Is it possible that paranoia has become policy? [...]
[I]s it possible that our well-intentioned President and his Vice President have gone off the track of common sense in their seeming obsession with terrorism? Is there still validity to the proverb "whom the Gods would destroy, they first make mad"?
For half a century, our priorities were dominated by the fear of Russian Communism--until it collapsed of its own internal weakness. As I listen to the grim rhetoric of Messrs. Bush and Cheney, I wonder if they are leading us into another half-century of cold war, with terrorism replacing Communism as the second great hobgoblin of our age.
Richard Nixon was not only the worst president in American history but the worst person ever to be President. George McGovern is by all accounts an extraordinarily decent and likable man, who served his country well as a bomber pilot during WWII. Yet, as you read those questions, you can't help but think : thank God, Nixon whipped him.
These are the same types of things that Mr. McGovern espoused back in the 70s : disarm unilaterally, throw money at poverty and treat our enemies like friends. Now, admittedly, there's something almost Christ-like in the belief that these strategies will heal the world, but let's recall that those whom Christ loved crucified him. That turned out to be an okay deal for Him, because God then resurrected Him. But who's going to forgive and/or save an American leader who turns his cheek when our enemies strike?
Of course, a man who blithely dismisses Communism as a mere "hobgoblin" may be beyond redemption. If Communism's one hundred million victims don't deserve to be taken seriously, how many people do you have to murder before Mr. McGovern thinks you're beyond the pale? The leaders of Iraq and North Korea are starving their own populations to death but Mr. McGovern wants to normalize trade and travel with them. You don't have to agree with the current ads that say drug users effectively support terrorism in order to agree with the proposition that supplying a Saddam or a Castro with hard currency would make us complicit in their reigns of terror over their own people.
We might also note how absurd and self-contradictory it is for Mr. McGovern to argue that American priorities were dominated by the Cold War for fifty years but that the USSR collapsed on its own. Granted it is intolerable for the Left to acknowledge Ronald Reagan's role, but surely the series of wars begun by their guys (Korea--Truman and Vietnam--JFK & LBJ) and the mammoth defense expenditures had some effect, no?
On the other hand, I'd agree that letting the Cold War drag on for fifty years was a mistake, as was allowing terrorism to go unpunished for the last thirty. But if we wage this war now and wage it decisively we can defeat terrorism (well, mostly) twenty years quicker than we did Soviet Communism. The world would be a better place now if we'd left Mr. McGovern and his comrades in their cockpits and redirected them at the USSR in 1945. It will be a better place when his successors in our armed forces finish the current war on a different but quite similar terror.
N. B. : And let me just ask one question that Mr. McGovern and his ilk might want to consider : is it more paranoid for the administration to create a shadow government because they fear terrorists or for the Left to fear the 75 mid-level bureaucrats who comprise that shadow government? Who do you think is a greater threat to the American people : Osama bin Laden or George W. Bush?
April 11, 2002
SEND LAWYERS, GUNS, AND MONEY :Venezuela Army Gen. Orders Rebellion (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, April 11, 2002, Filed at 11:12)
As top military commanders rebelled against President Hugo Chavez, rebel National Guard troops seized government television and took it off the air late Thursday, the station manager said. Civilians celebrated outside.
Earlier Thursday police and armed Chavez supporters fired on a march by 150,000 opposition protesters near the presidential palace. At least 12 people were killed and as many as 110 wounded, officials said.
It seems almost certain that we'll soon be hearing much wailing and gnashing of teeth over this antidemocratic, right-wing coup. Folks will demand immediate elections and the "restoration" of democracy. We couldn't disagree more.
PBS has recently been running a very fine program call Commanding Heights : The Battle for the World Economy, based on a book by Daniel Yergin. It deals with the transition from communism and statism to democracy and more importantly to free markets in the 1980s and 90s by countries like Bolivia, Poland, India, Russia and China. These countries to one degree or another adopted measures such as cutting state expenditures, balancing budgets, selling off state owned businesses, raising interest rates, etc. One of the subtexts that emerges, though it is not ennunciated very well, perhaps because it is so politically incorrect, is that, assuming your country has already been driven into the ground by inept, corrupt, and/or totalitarian rule, you are much better off having a strong government, even a repressive one, impose economic reforms, than you are trying to reform both the political and the economic systems concurrently. This is most clear in the comparison between Yeltsin's Russia and Deng Xiaoping's China.
In Russia, where Gorbachev thought that he could loosen the Party's grip on society in order to gain some breathing room for reform, events quickly spun out of control and the communists were gone long before reform could occur. This left weak governments under Yeltsin trying to outmaneuver the former communists, the "oligarchs", and organized crime. The result is that only with the coming to power of Vladimir Putin, a quasi-fascist figure, has Russia shown any signs of getting its act together.
Meanwhile, in China, the Communist Party retained its stranglehold over government and society, but it relaxed its control of the economic sphere. The result is a burgeoning economy and a growing middle class, which will in all likelihood soon depose the Party. China has less formal freedom than does Russia but it is more nearly a free and functional society, because an authoritarian government was able to ram through reforms, the very reforms that spell its own doom.
There's an important lesson in all this for other nations that have been completely mismanaged--for instance the entire Islamic World, much of Latin America, and all of Africa. As we have seen time and again--from Spain to Chile to Singapore to South Korea to Turkey and so on--the most successful transitions to liberal capitalist democracies have typically required a phase during which an undemocratic government imposes reforms, especially economic reforms, while maintaining the social order. Only then do the preconditions come into existence which allow for the final transition to democracy.
We should not be to hasty to insist that Venezuela's military yield control of the country. The initial order that often only the military of a country (Chavez was an unfortunate example of a left-wing military figure) can impose and sustain is one of the keys to creating a stable democracy. In nation-building, patience is a virtue.
N.B. : see also our review of The Feast of the Goat (2000) (Mario Vargas Llosa 1936-) (Grade: A-)
A BRILLIANT QUESTION :
After listening to a Morning Edition report on how the United States doesn't spend enough money combatting AIDs in Africa, Bryan Francoeur asks a brilliant question :
Why is it that all these NPR-types say we shouldn't be the world's policeman, but we should be its doctor?
HANG DOWN YOUR HEAD TOM DOOLEY :Group: INS Destroyed Elian Document (Adrian Sainz, April 10, 2002, Associated Press)
The head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service ordered the destruction of an e-mail that could have bolstered the request for asylum filed for Elian Gonzalez during the Cuban boy's stay in Miami, a watchdog group said Wednesday.
The Brothers make no bones about being xenophobic jingoes. So there have been relatively few moments when we were ashamed of our country--the fall of Saigon in 1975, the Tienanmen massacre, the visits of Gerry Adams and Yasar Arafat to the White House, President Bush's recent signing of Campaign Finance Reform, and maybe a couple others. But no moment has ever caused us greater shame than when Bill Clinton shipped Elian Gonzalez back to Cuba. If the administration really did conceal evidence, such as that Elian's father repeatedly asked to be allowed to defect to the United States himself, people should go to prison for it.
RED VS. BLUE :Journalist Jeffrey Toobin discusses his profile of Attorney General John Aschroft, published in this week's issue of The New Yorker (Terry Gross, April 11, 2002, NPR) We heard a lot of talk about how America was a divided nation after the 2000 election, that we separate into the Red states and the Blue states. Today I heard perhaps the best illustration of the difference that you're ever going to find. On Fresh Air, Terry Gross asked Jeffrey Toobin if there was anything he found surprising about John Ashcroft when he interviewed him. Mr. Toobin said that the Attorney General was much less forbidding in person, even homey. He related how at one point General Ashcroft told him, there are only two things you need in this world : "WD-40 and duct tape. WD-40 to get things apart and duct tape to put things together." This was met with dumbfounded silence by the host, until Mr. Toobin said he wasn't sure what it meant either. Then the two laughed (as I heard it, condescendingly, but mind you, I was stuck behind a manure spreader at the time) and Ms Gross said you probably had to hang around hardware stores to understand it. Huh? I realize this was a conversation between two citified East Coast intellectuals, but if you blue state folks really don't comprehend WD-40 and duct tape, you've got to get out more and you sure as Hell shouldn't be running the country.
4TH AND LONG :The Democrats Punt (David S. Broder, April 7, 2002,
When the House was debating its budget resolution a few weeks ago, the Democrats proposed no alternative of their own. The ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, Rep. John Spratt of South Carolina, confessed that he had found that "we would have to use the gimmicks and the devices the other [Republican] side used," if the goal was to make the numbers politically palatable. Rather than fake it, the House Democrats punted.
But the budget resolution, though lacking the force of law, is designed to be the clearest statement of a party's policy priorities. As long as they are silent, the Democrats cannot be part of serious political debate.
They have been muzzled because they are caught in a three-way bind. They don't want to challenge President Bush on military spending or homeland security, knowing he has broad public support for the war on terrorism. Most of them don't want to revisit the 10-year, across-the-board tax cut passed last year, in part because Bush has said he would veto any rollback and in part because they fear being labeled tax-raisers. And with the budget veering into deficit, they feel constrained about urging additional spending, even for their traditional favorite domestic programs.
The result is that the public views the Democrats, according to poll after poll, as being incoherent on economic policy. Their vagueness is leaving this vital policy field to Bush and the Republicans.
Before I'm accused of shedding crocodile tears, let me be clear that I welcome the pending return of the Democrats to permanent minority party status. I believe that the long reign of liberalism (1928 to 1994) did a great deal of damage to the country, much of it irreparable. As they slink back into the political wilderness it would be helpful if they could take the big government, sexual/moral revolution, and tribalism that are their legacy with them. Instead, we're stuck picking up the pieces.
But I take no great satisfaction from seeing the Democratic Party reduced to the incoherent wreck it has become. A healthy democracy requires that there be two distinct parties forcefully advocating their very different views of the role of government in human affairs. The republic is never healthier than when the differences between the two are at their greatest and are most clearly enunciated. Both 1964 and 1994 were great years for democracy because they offered such clear choices for people. Sure, they chose badly in 1964, but the nation was ultimately well served by the way
in which 1964 restored the central ideas of conservatism to prominence in the Republican Party, even if it took thirty years for them to finally triumph.
Unfortunately, today's Democrats resemble the pusillanimous Republicans of the thirties through the seventies, who (with rare exceptions like Goldwater in '64) refused to confront the Social Welfare State and the attrition of the culture under Democrats, for fear of bucking popular opinion, and thereby made themselves utterly useless to the nation. So now the Democrats refuse to enunciate a case for big government or for further loosening of social mores or for any of the things they truly believe in, merely because the public has turned against them. But this gives us a palsied and pitiful Democratic Party, one that must depend on the cult of personality, as when it turned to the personally appealing Bill Clinton, despite his not caring about any of their issues. And once that personality leaves the stage, having already sacrificed their principles on the altar of electibility, what is left of the Democrats? It looks like the answer for now is : nothing.
Even, or especially, those of us who disagree with everything the Democrats stand for have to hope that the Party undergoes its own reformation, as the Republicans had to, and returns to its first principles : bigger government and whatever else it was the Democrats used to stand for. Provide the American people with a choice; we all know that Republicans are the party of Draconian budget cuts, over-generous tax cuts, Puritanical morality, etc. Now tell us what you're for and let the American people decide which they prefer.
THE DISTURBING DILEMMA :REVIEW : of Christian Faith and Modern Democracy: God and Politics in the Fallen World By Robert P. Kraynak (Ken Masugi, Religion & Liberty)
A committed Roman Catholic, Robert Kraynak has produced one of the most significant political books for American Catholics since John Courtney Murray's We Hold These Truths. A professor of political theory at Colgate University, Kraynak deserves mention along with Murray, Jacques Maritain, and Reinhold Niebuhr as a thoughtful commentator on the most profound of issues. His work will shake any reader, secular or faithful, to rethink the relationship between one's citizenship and one's faith.
"We must face the disturbing dilemma that modern liberal democracy needs God, but God is not as liberal or as democratic as we would like Him to be". Kraynak's argument, presented initially as the Frank M. Covey Lectures at Loyola University, carefully combines sober analysis of church history and biblical scholarship with scathing assessments of the politicization of contemporary theology. "Christianity is the fullness of truth," he writes. "The loss of this grand and exhilarating perspective is another casualty of modern Christianity and its principled embrace of human rights." Democracy requires a strong, not enervated, Christianity, "because its moral claims cannot be vindicated by secular and rational means alone." In making this dual argument, Kraynak brilliantly exposes the theological and political problems caused by the close relationship between what he variously labels as democracy, liberalism, liberty, and Kantianism, on the one hand, and Christianity, on the other. The modern world is in the grips of deteriorated family life, materialism, and a willfulness dominating all aspects of life. In place of this contemporary muddle of moral anarchy, Kraynak reminds Christians of Saint Augustine's teaching of the two cities—the City of Man and the City of God, whose "conception of human dignity [is] based on the Imago Dei." Christians should enter into a prudential relationship between their primary citizenship in the City of God and a political order that would not necessarily possess the attributes of modern liberal regimes. Christianity must exhibit a hierarchy and transcendence that egalitarian political orders must disdain. For the good of both realms, they must remain separate, until we enter "a new historical stage."
Mr. Kraynak was the best professor I ever had, so I'm not impartial, but I think this the best book on political theory in recent memory. Our review is here.
PAVING WITH GOOD INTENTIONS :Where Does the Progressive Community Stand on the Issue of Embryonic Stem Cell Research? : Statement Opposing the Criminalization of Therapeutic Cloning
We are progressives who believe that biotechnology should be placed in the service of humane ends. Therefore we oppose legislation currently being considered in the U.S. Congress that would criminalize research that clones human embryonic stem cells for therapeutic purposes. The laudable aim of this research is to develop new remedies for severe childhood and adult illnesses that afflict millions of people.
On its face this petition seems like a carefully reasoned bit of advocacy for only the most limited and relatively noncontroversial type of cloning. In fact, its effect is to allow all forms of cloning, even those that some signatories would find repulsive, even evil.
Surely that is not the intent of the drafters or signers of the petition, but later on the same page they implicitly acknowledge it to be the case. In response to the concern that their action will allow nearly unfettered cloning, they write :
Will therapeutic cloning inevitably lead us onto a slippery slope to headless full term clones?
No. Our model for regulatory oversight should be the English Fertilisation and Embryology Act of 1990, which limits any experimentation with embryos, to the first 14 days. It is at 14 days that an embryo first begins to develop the primitive streak, the first indication of a nervous system. It is also at 14 days that, in all but the most extreme cases of conjoined twins, an embryo loses the ability to split into two and become twins. The oversight mandated by the English Act has prevented any 'slippery slope' in the United Kingdom and there is no reason to assume that a similar approach would not work as well in this country.
Well, okay, perhaps where there is a complex regulatory scheme already in place a ban would be unnecessary. But we do not currently have such regulations. We have not even determined yet whether a clone would be a human being or mere property. The term "therapeutic cloning" has no legal meaning. There is nothing to stop someone from simply calling every process they decide to attempt a "therapy" and thereby circumventing the limitations that even the petitioners seem to support.
A complete ban, even if it affects some processes that we'll later allow, seems to be the only way to avoid the truly horrific practices that nearly everyone opposes (the headless clone or, more problematic, the clone with brain function interrupted so that it never becomes conscious). The ban will serve as a pause while we, as a society, debate how far we're willing to let science and industry go and while Congress drafts the corresponding legislation. Of course, particularly with the two houses divided between the two parties, the legislative process is likely to take quite awhile. So be it. We can ban too much in order to be sure that we ban evil or we can allow evil in trying to allow the ethical, but the choice is that stark.
HARPO SPEAKS! :Powell to hear Egypt's frustration (BBC, 9 April, 2002)
The other Brother called last night with a couple of good points, but insists that I'm our official spokesman, so in this post I get to play Charlie McCarthy to his Edgar Bergen.
Colin Powell is being deluged with complaints at the early stops on his trip because of the leisurely pace with which he's wending his way towards Israel. Stephen points out two significant things that many people seem to be overlooking in all this :
(1) The pace is the point.
If the United States really wanted the Israelis to withdraw immediately, Powell would have gone there immediately. The fact that he's taking his good sweet time is the best indicator yet that regardless of how people heard President Bush's most recent pronouncement on the conflict, it had no bearing on our level of support for Israel. The message to Sharon is to hasten slowly. He gets it.
(2) No one races to the electric chair.
Powell is on a mission that is going to fail and the point of which is that it will fail. The hawks sent him in order to embarrass the doves. Powell is too smart a bureaucrat not to recognize this, so he's trying to delay the inevitable as long as possible. The surprise is not that it is going to take him so long to get to Israel but that he didn't go by hot air balloon. Eighty days to get there would have suited him just fine.
April 10, 2002
MO VS. EVOLUTION :The Baby Bust (MAUREEN DOWD, April 10, 2002, NY Times)
Sylvia Ann Hewlett, an economist, conducted a survey and found that 55 percent of 35-year-old career women are childless. Between a third and half of 40-year-old professional women are childless. The number of childless women age 40 to 44 has doubled in the past 20 years. And among corporate executives who earn $100,000 or more, she says, 49 percent of the women did not have children, compared with only 10 percent of the men.
Ms. Hewlett, the author of "Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children," observes, yet again, that men have an unfair advantage.
"Nowadays," she says, "the rule of thumb seems to be that the more successful the woman, the less likely it is she will find a husband or bear a child. For men, the reverse is true."
Men, apparently, learn early to protect their eggshell egos from high-achieving women.
The girls said they hid the fact that they go to Harvard from guys they meet, because it's the kiss of death. "The H-bomb," they call it.
"As soon as you say Harvard Business School . . . that's the end of the conversation," Ani Vartanian said. "As soon as the guys say, 'Oh, I go to Harvard Business School,' all the girls start falling into them."
So the moral of the story is, the more women accomplish, the more they have to sacrifice?
The problem here is not only that women are procrastinating too long; it is that men veer away from "challenging" women because they have an atavistic desire to be the superior force in a relationship.
In the immortal words of Cher: Snap out of it, guys.
I doubt it is possible to misunderstand the import of human behavior any more completely than Ms Dowd has done here. Men dominated women, even "strong" ones like Ms Dowd, for thousands of years with little or no problem. It's naught but hubris on her part to think we're afraid of them now.
Men reject careerist women because they want the mother of their children to stay home and mother them, while the husband provides for the family. That is men who aren't supremely lazy--they on the other hand marry careerists who will go out and be the breadwinners while their husbands stay home and run a website, instead of working for a living. Ah, life is sweet...
PAST THE TIPPING POINT :Attack Follows Ambush That Killed 13 Israeli Troops (SERGE SCHMEMANN and JOEL BRINKLEY, April 10, 2002, NY Times)
A suicide bomber exploded a powerful bomb on a bus in northern Israel during rush hour this morning, killing at least 8 people, a day after 13 Israeli soldiers were killed in an ambush in the West Bank city of Jenin.
The bus explosion occurred at about 7:15, as the bus was moving between stops in the Haifa suburbs. At least 14 people were wounded, three seriously.
It was the first attack by a suicide bomber since April 1, just after Israel began occupying the West Bank. Israel's leaders had been making the point that their military occupation of the West Bank had routed the terrorists, making such an attack less easily accomplished.
The optimism of democrats (small "d") is one of our most beguiling features, but also a source of much delusion. Thus one week without a suicide bomber successfully attacking civilians had convinced many people that either the Israeli incursion was working (the pro-Israeli view) or that Arafat wanted to give peace a chance (the pro-Palestinian view). Combine this native optimism with the greatly accelerated news cycle of the modern age and we actually had folks spinning out scenarios wherein Israel could extend operations for just a few more weeks and it would have achieved its objectives (this from hawks who oppose the President's ultimatum to Israel) or, alternatively, wherein Israel's immediate withdrawal would effectively end the bombings. The reality, predictably, appears to be quite different. Palestine seems to have reached a "tipping point" some weeks ago, and suicide bombing seems to have become not merely the last ditch tactic of a desperate people, but a popular and socially acceptable leisure activity. Palestine seems to have fallen in love with death. Murder/suicide is now epidemic among Palestinians.
In his book, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell explains his thesis as follows :
The Tipping Point is the biography of an idea, and the idea is very simple. It is that the best way to understand the emergence of fashion trends, the ebb and flow of crime waves, or, for that matter, the transformation of unknown books into bestsellers, or the rise of teenage smoking, or the phenomena of word of mouth, or any number of the other mysterious changes that mark everyday life is to think of them as epidemics. Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do.
[T]hree characteristics--one contagiousness; two, the fact that little causes can have big effects; and three, that change happens not gradually but at one dramatic moment--are the...three principles that define how measles moves through a grade-school classroom or the flu attacks every winter. Of the three, the third trait--the idea that epidemics can rise or fall in one dramatic moment--is the most important, because it is the principle that makes sense of the first two and that permits the greatest insight into why modern change happens the way it does. The name given to that one dramatic moment in an epidemic when everything can change all at once is the Tipping Point.
In our review of the book I was fairly critical of much of what Gladwell has to say, but I do think he provides a useful analytical framework for examining seemingly inexplicable phenomena. For instance, he argues that there are three rules that govern these epidemics :
* The Law of the Few : that a few key individuals are generally responsible for most of the spread of the idea.
* The Stickiness Factor : "...that there are specific ways of making a contagious message memorable..."
* The Power of Context : "that human beings are a lot more sensitive to their environment than they may seem."
These rules suggest a few alternatives that Israel could try in order to get control over the epidemic. First, rather than attacking the terrorist cells and trying to root out the bomb factories, they should get rid of the "few key individuals are generally responsible for most of the spread of the idea" of suicide bombing. It seems likely that removing Yasar Arafat, Saddam Hussein, and other leaders who are advocating this idea and rewarding the behavior would have a greater effect than anything that the Israelis can do on a terrorist by terrorist level. If Mr. Gladwell is right in this regard--and I think this is one of the stronger parts of the book--the continuation of terrorism is less dependent on the terrorist bombers themselves than on the support for it that comes from these leaders.
Second, while the message it sends may be psychotic, there are few actions more memorable than mass murder and suicide. It seems like Israel could attempt to severely limit how far this message spreads by clamping down on the media. It is my understanding that most of the news in the Middle East is provided by satellite television networks, like al-Jazeera, or by radio. Either Israel, or the U.S. and Israel, could presumably take down these broadcasts, by jamming signals, destroying satellites, etc. And the Israelis could try to impose a domestic news clampdown, recognizing that coverage of these attacks is not changing world opinion about the conflict, which remains hostile to the victims rather than the perpetrators of the bombings, and that the publicity is instead helping to spread the idea of murdering Jews throughout the Middle East. This step would require them to ask for cooperation from their own press and from the American press, or else to violate Western standards of freedom of the press. So? To the extent that press coverage is contributing to the contagion and fueling the epidemic it should be treated as a pathogen.
Finally, the most difficult aspect of Mr. Gladwell's argument concerns "context". In discussing the fall of crime in New York City, he traces the cause of the decline almost entirely to the adoption of Broken Windows Policing policies, the relentless punishment of even small infractions, and the way in which it changed the environment. With that I mostly agree--though I think he underrates the role of both demographic changes (reduced numbers of young people) and economics (the twenty year boom that began in 1982). But he maintains that the notion that changing the environment in which people live will have dramatic effects on their behavior is a revolutionary idea; I believe it is the central truth of conservatism.
One of the fathers of Broken Windows Policing, James Q. Wilson, described the policy as follows :
[T]he most important requirement is to think that to maintain order in precarious situations is a vital job.
The logic of this statement brings us to what would be the most difficult step for Israel to take ; rather than fostering disorder, by entirely justified military action, Israel might be better served by stepping back from the brink and trying to restore some civil order to Palestinian society (presumably with American help). Act quickly against the Palestinian and other Arab leaders who support terrorism. Stop providing press coverage to terrorist incidents. Then withdraw; recognize the State of Palestine; and stand ready to help whatever Palestinian authorities take over. Get the U.S., Europe, and the more responsible Arab nations involved, in providing policing, food, shelter, clothing, etc.. Having destroyed the source of the contagious idea and limited its spread, try to create a viable and orderly infrastructure in this currently diseased society as quickly as possible, not because it is good for the Palestinians (though it would be), but because it is important to Israel that an environment of order be imposed, in order that the epidemic of violence may begin to taper off.
I am far too much the pessimist to believe that even these steps will work, but at least having taken them will serve to soothe our tender consciences should harsher solutions be required.
April 9, 2002
OUR BROTHER FROM ANOTHER MOTHER :COP of the WEEK : Michael Walter (John F. Morrison, Philadelphia Daily News, April 8, 2002)
COP of the WEEK
Years on force: 20
Assignment: Detective, Homicide Division, fugitive squad.
Personal: Married, two children, lives in Northeast.
Toughest challenge: Working homicide, spending the days seeing the worst in human nature. I try to make sure what I see during the day does not have a negative effect on my personal life. I have to keep it professional. I can't let my emotions get the better of me. Luckily, I have two kids to show me what life really has to offer.
Greatest success: Telling the families of murder victims that we caught the person who killed their loved ones. The reaction is just overwhelming. I've never had an indifferent reaction. It's so satisfying, and it helps to bring closure to their lives.
Sgt. Bill Britt, head of Homicide Division fugitive squad: Detective Walter is just an excellent detective, very thorough. He leaves no stone unturned. And he's very compassionate in dealing with the families of the victims. He has a great work ethic. He's really been tearing it up since he joined the squad. He had six murder arrests in two months. He's a great asset to the team.
The Brothers actually think his "toughest challenge" is probably being married to the Sister Judd. :)
DESERT ISLAND BOOK #1 :A baseball bible, the James version (Bob Ryan, 4/9/2002, Boston Globe)
I am hardly ashamed or embarrassed to say that I have learned a great deal about baseball from reading James, but there are some among us who hesitate to give this man his proper credit because they deride him as just a math geek. In truth, he outcalculates all of us and outwrites most of us. There are any number of so-called Sabrematicians and assorted baseball numerologists, but 25 years after James first appeared on the scene, he stands apart, as much for the superb quality of his writing as for the intriguing nature of his statistical findings.
He is back in our lives in a big way, with a 970-page tome titled The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, the ''New'' referring to the existence of the Historical Baseball Abstract published 14 years ago. If you're like me, you'll wish the book had 1,970 pages.
As it happens, I'm exactly like Mr. Ryan. My copy of the original Historical Abstract is pretty tatty by now, having been thumbed through frequently. I look forward to the new edition.
Its publication reminds me though of the old BBC radio program where they'd ask people which five records they'd take with them if they were stranded on a desert island. I could do without the music, but if I had five really good books I'd be very happy. (I never could figure out why any of the castaways wanted to get off of Gilligan's Island.) The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract would probably replace the old one at number one on my list of top five desert island books.
REAGAN AMONG THE BOURGEOISOPHOBES :Here are two essays, one by David Brooks on the history and prevalence of hostility towards the bourgeoisie by intellectuals and various non-Western cultures, Among the Bourgeoisophobes (Weekly Standard), the other by Adam Clymer on academics trying to assess Ronald Reagan's presidency, Rethinking Reagan: Was He a Man of Ideas After All? (NY Times, April 6, 2002), which almost demand to be read together because so much of the Brooks essay informs the Clymer article.
Mr. Brooks states the basic case :
Around 1830, a group of French artists and intellectuals looked around and noticed that people who were their spiritual inferiors were running the world. Suddenly a large crowd of merchants, managers, and traders were making lots of money, living in the big houses, and holding the key posts. They had none of the high style of the aristocracy, or even the earthy integrity of the peasants. Instead, they were gross. They were vulgar materialists, shallow conformists, and self-absorbed philistines, who half the time failed even to acknowledge their moral and spiritual inferiority to the artists and intellectuals. What's more, it was their very mediocrity that accounted for their success. Through some screw-up in the great scheme of the universe, their narrow-minded greed had brought them vast wealth, unstoppable power, and growing social prestige.
Naturally, the artists and intellectuals were outraged. Hatred of the bourgeoisie became the official emotion of the French intelligentsia. Stendhal said traders and merchants made him want to 'weep and vomit at the same time.' Flaubert thought they were 'plodding and avaricious.' Hatred of the bourgeoisie, he wrote, 'is the beginning of all virtue." He signed his letters 'Bourgeoisophobus' to show how much he despised "stupid grocers and their ilk.'
Of all the great creeds of the 19th century, pretty much the only one still thriving is this one, bourgeoisophobia. Marxism is dead. Freudianism is dead. Social Darwinism is dead, along with all those theories about racial purity that grew up around it. But the emotions and reactions that Flaubert, Stendhal, and all the others articulated in the 1830s are still with us, bigger than ever. In fact, bourgeoisophobia, which has flowered variously and spread to places as diverse as Baghdad, Ramallah, and Beijing, is the major reactionary creed of our age.
It is, of course, the central thesis of the Brothers Judd that all of human history can be understood as a struggle between those who favor freedom and those who desire security, so we would say that Mr. Brooks's bourgeoisophobes are really just a subset of the forces of security. But read in conjunction with Mr. Clymer's piece we can see how useful his analysis is, even if overstated.
Let's juxtapose passages from the two :
First this from David Brooks :
'What America never takes a moment to consider is that, despite its mightiness, it is a young country with much to learn. It had no real direct experience of the First and Second World Wars,' declared a writer in the New Statesman...
Then this from the Clymer piece :
Sheldon Anderson, an associate professor of history and international studies at the University of Miami in Ohio, observed that in Eastern Europe, where Communism fell, scholars do not give much responsibility to Mr. Reagan.
This borders on hilarity. European and American intellectuals must actually deny that the United States had much to do with winning WWI, WWII, and the Cold War. The assertion is too silly to waste ink refuting.
Then this from David Brooks :
When bourgeoisophobes describe their enemies, they almost always portray them as money-mad, as crazed commercialists. And this vulgar materialism, in their view, has not only corrupted the soul of the bourgeoisie, but through them threatens to debase civilization itself and the whole world. It threatens, in the words of the supreme bourgeoisophobe, Karl Marx, to take all that is holy and make it profane.
And this from the Clymer piece :
[T]he president's view of America 'sailed dangerously close to idolatry.' Mr. Heclo said, 'For Reagan, the oversoul of the nation, intrinsically innocent, is assigned an ultimacy that seems indistinguishable from worship.'
Mr. Heclo actually has the most favorable things to say about Reagan, but note how even he accuses the Gipper of sacrilege.
Then there's this by Mr. Brooks, about Europeans, but it applies equally well to American intellectuals :
Europeans, of course, are bourgeois themselves, even more so in some ways than Americans and Israelis. What they distrust about America and Israel is that these countries represent a particularly aggressive and, to them, unbalanced strain of bourgeois ambition. No European would ever acknowledge the category, but America and Israel are heroic bourgeois nations. The Israelis are driven by passionate Zionism to build their homeland and make it rich and powerful. Americans are driven by our Puritan sense of calling, the deeply held belief that we Americans have a special mission to spread our way of life around the globe. It is precisely this heroic element of ordinary life that Europeans lack and distrust.
So the Europeans are all ambivalence. The British historian J.H. Plumb once declared that he loved America (and he was indeed a great defender of the United States), but even his admiration for the country 'was entangled with anger, anxiety and at times flashes of hate.' In his infuriatingly condescending and ultimately appreciative portrait 'America,' the French modernist Jean Baudrillard wrote, 'America is powerful and original; America is violent and abominable. We should not seek to deny either of these aspects, nor reconcile them.'
But Europeans do seek to deny them--because they simply can't remember what it's like to be imperially confident, to feel the forces of history blowing at one's back, to have heroic and even eschatological aspirations. Their passions have been quieted. Their intellectual guides have taught them that business is ignoble and striving is vulgar. Their history has caused them to renounce military valor (good thing, too) and to regard their own relative decline as a sign of greater maturity and wisdom. The European Union has a larger population than the United States, and a larger GDP--and its political class has tried to construct an institutional architecture that will enable it to rival America. But the imperial confidence is gone, along with the youthful sense of limitless possibility and the unselfconscious embrace of ordinary striving.
So their internal engine is calibrated differently. They look with disdain upon our work ethic (the average American works 350 hours a year--nearly nine weeks--longer than the average European). They look with disdain upon what they see as our lack of social services, our relatively small welfare state, which rewards mobility and effort but less gracefully cushions misfortune. They look with distaste upon our commercial culture, which favors the consumer but does not ease the rigors of competition for producers. And they look with fear upon our popular culture, which like some relentless machine seems designed to crush the local cultures that stand in its way.
And this from Mr. Clymer :
Mr. Heclo maintains...that the core Reagan idea was a 'sacramental vision' of America; 'God's unique relation to America was the central chord from which all else followed.'
Mr. Heclo cited phrases familiar to anyone who listened to Mr. Reagan's speeches: America as 'the last best hope of man on earth' and (borrowing from John Winthrop's sermon aboard the Arbella on the way to America in 1630) as a 'shining city on a hill,' a beacon to mankind. But he also drew on speeches Mr. Reagan gave before he was deeply involved in politics, like a 1952 address when he said, 'I believe that God in shedding his grace on this country has always in this divine scheme of things kept an eye on our land and guided it as a promised land.'
Mr. Reagan conveyed this vision through storytelling, Mr. Heclo said. In his final Oval Office speech, he spoke of the aircraft carrier Midway as a metaphor for America as the redeemer nation, 'rescuing a tiny boat of refugees adrift in an open sea.'
Mr. Heclo, who said he had never voted for Mr. Reagan and disagreed with many of his policies, said that when 'Reagan's more intellectually sophisticated critics in mainstream academia" dismissed these ideas as 'nothing new,' they missed the point.
'The important point is not that Reagan ever said anything fundamentally new, but that in the new context created by the 60's, Reagan continued to uphold something old," Mr. Heclo said. 'For all its positive accomplishments, the 60's mentality," he said, 'went a long way in undermining respect for inherited values and beliefs. America's special mission in the world was unmasked as exploitation and oppression. The hand of providence appeared as pompous nonsense in a world now seen to be ruled by the calculated exercise of power.'
This was not all abstract, Mr. Heclo said. Mr. Reagan saw the United States as confronted by evil, 'whereby the nation's chosenness stood over against the powers of darkness.' Mr. Reagan, he said, 'saw Communist states as simply the latest enemy on the offensive against the American idea of freedom, an enemy that needed to be defeated rather than accommodated.'
No wonder the intellectuals hate Ronald Reagan so; can any figure in our history more surely be said to have felt the forces of history blowing at his back. At a time (the 60s and 70s) when it appeared that the bourgeoisophobes might well win their reactionary battle, vanquishing liberal capitalist protestant democracy and replacing it with a dictatorship of intellectuals and bureaucrats (under communism, socialism, or whatever), along came Reagan to rally the bourgeoisie and send the Left scurrying for cover. By the end of his public career, Reagan had destroyed communism abroad and made the concept of big government anathema at home. How could this avatar of human freedom and bourgeois values be anything but an object of loathing by the intellectual elites?
The last word comes from Mr. Clymer's article and it applies to our entire bourgeois society as well as to the former president :
[P]erhaps the single most important lesson for the academics was offered by Lou Cannon, a retired Washington Post reporter and the author of four Reagan books. He said: 'Reagan invited us to underestimate him. He felt that gave him an advantage.'
Advantage : us.
April 8, 2002
VIEWING AMERICA FROM DOWN UNDER :Understanding America (Owen Harries, Centre for Independent Studies Lecture presented in Sydney, Australia on April 3, 2002)
Lincoln at Gettysburg spoke of a nation 'conceived in liberty and dedicated to a proposition'. He spoke of reverence for the laws as 'the political religion of the nation'. As the writer Robert Penn Warren put it, 'To be an American is not . . . a matter of blood; it is a matter of an idea-and [its] history is the image of that idea.'
Another writer, Theodore White: 'Americans are not a people like the French, Germans or Japanese, whose genes have been mixing with kindred genes for thousands of years. Americans are held together only by ideas.'
Many non-Americans have agreed. G. K. Chesterton maintained that 'America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed.' And Margaret Thatcher has contrasted European nations, as the products of history, with the United States, as the product of a philosophy.
And so on and on. Now it would be very easy to dismiss all this as hyperbole, or hypocrisy. It is certainly true that America is many things as well as an idea-- a history; a set of customs and traditions; various institutions, political and otherwise; and, as we have become increasingly aware, a complex of power and interests. But ideas are a very important-an exceptionally important-part of the whole, and to the extent that Americans believe that these ideas are central to its identity and acts accordingly, it has important consequences.
It was in the 1960s that the next great adaptations were made and a third major phase [of immigration] began. An extension of genuine political rights and access to the political creed took place to include America's black population, and immigration was opened up to include people of all races and ethnic composition: Hispanic, Asians, Africans, people from the Caribbean and Arabs. There are now over 32 million Hispanics and over 12 million Asians in the United States.
Something else of great importance happened as this third phase proceeded. The accepted metaphor for American society changed from a melting pot to a 'mosaic'. The old melting pot ideal was now increasingly condemned as authoritarian and conformist, and the theory and practice of multiculturalism began to prevail. Instead of assimilation, diversity and variety represented the ideal.
As this change occurred, the belief in America as representing an Idea was turned around. Previously it had been used to justify assimilation; now it became the basis of the argument that assimilation was unnecessary, and was used to justify cultural pluralism. If American nationalism consisted essentially of a common acceptance of a political creed or faith, the argument went, then it did not require the surrendering of original language, culture, tradition, folkways. Different peoples could retain all these and still be American as long as they accepted the political creed.
Many folks have seized upon this fine lecture simply as a counterbalance to the rather anti-American views we've been hearing from Western Europe in the wake of 9-11. And it is a stirring defense of the United States, but it is important not to treat it as a mere balm for our insecurities, because it also raises some questions about the future of the American Idea. Mr. Harries is, I take it, Australian and they are in the midst of a divisive national dialogue over immigration. An Anglo nation perched on the age of Asia, many Australians justifiably fear that their culture could not withstand the massive influx of Asian immigrants who would justifiably like to get out of such benighted nations as China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Burma (or Myanmar), North Korea, etc. So he marvels at how America has withstood successive waves of immigration without losing its distinctly American identity. Yet he correctly points out that in recent years (what he refers to as our "third major phase"), we have compromised the American Idea, have assumed that the culture of America was fairly unimportant so long as the political structure was adhered to.
This is a dangerous, perhaps even suicidal, experiment that we are engaged in, for there is no evidence that a culture other than the traditional Anglo-American culture--that odd mixture of Judeo-Christian ideals, ancient Greco-Roman institutions, Enlightenment rationalism, and fierce Saxon individualism that gave rise to the American Idea--can long sustain a liberal pluralistic capitalist democracy. Mr. Harries discusses the condescending way in which European intellectuals and statesmen treat America as a "young" nation, needing guidance, despite the fact that are have the longest lived, most stable, most thoroughly tested, and freest democratic republic on Earth. Something has made us different than the rest of the world, we are exceptional. Perhaps the multiculturalists are right and this is solely a function of our political system, but, first of all, I doubt it and, second, I think it's idiotic to risk our future on the possibility that it may be true.
Many nations have tried many forms of constitutional democracy with varying degrees of success, but none has lasted very long before succumbing to either chaos or repression, even if only the somewhat benevolent repression of European-style socialism. Surely if all it took to create an American Republic was a bare framework someone else would have duplicated the feat by now. That they have not and that the closest that anyone has come is in other former British colonies, like Canada and Australia, and that the only nascent democracies in many parts of the world are likewise former British colonies, Israel, India, South Africa, etc., or nations where authoritarian rulers tried to reform their native cultures along Anglo-American lines by brute force (Turkey, Iran, etc.) suggests rather strongly that there is a cultural element that is vital to the creation and maintenance of a truly free nation. It appears from all this evidence, not surprisingly, that the American Idea may be inextricably bound up with traditional American culture, that our heritage of Hellenism, Judaism, Christianity, Enlightenment, Protestantism, Capitalism, and Republicanism must be valued, nurtured, and handed down from one generation to the next, else we risk the passing of the Idea, risk the demise of America as we know it.
There are of course those, and the multiculturalists feature prominently among them, who would welcome the decline of America into the same kind of deracinated, overregulated, moribund, socialist society that we now find throughout Western Europe. The population of these countries may be shrinking, but they do undoubtedly provide greater social security to the few who remain; they may not produce much wealth, but what they do produce is certainly distributed more equally; they may not produce much in the way of culture anymore, but that makes them amenable to virtually any cultural beliefs; they may not have any beneficial influence in world affairs anymore, but by the same taken they have little negative influence either; they may be dying, but they are dying a fairly comfortable death.
America, on the other hand, even though diminished by its own flirtation with multiculturalism, is still pretty rambunctious. Our elites may talk a good game of accepting all cultures as equally useful, but when push comes to shove, we hardly hesitate to slap down those that threaten us, whether fascist, communist, or Islamofascist. The chattering class may worry about overpopulation, but we are one of the decreasing number of Western nations that continues to reproduce at least at replacement level. We may shuck and jive about our desire to be a compassionate people, but given a choice between government run medicine for everyone or private medicine that we control ourselves, we don't hesitate to choose choice. We may all desire to see ourselves as tres modern and cosmopolitan, but, unlike the rest of the West, we maintain a stubborn resistance to Darwin and Einstein and Nietzsche and Chomsky and all the rest who would tell us that God is dead and religion a thing of the past, that Man, along with the rest of the universe, is an accident and that nothing means anything unless we say so. But for how much longer, if we do decide to discard our culture (Western Civilization), will America remain the boisterous, freedom-loving, last best hope of Man?
POSTER BOY FOR GENOCIDAL MANIA :The Trouble with "Transfer" : Why Ethnic Cleansing Won't End Israel's Problems (Derek Copold, April 7, 2002, The Texas Mercury)
Due to the recent pace of developments in the Levant, several of Israel's would-be friends are suggesting that the Jewish State take drastic measures in her quest for security. The more milder of these proposals simply call for "transferring" the Arab populations of the West Bank and Gaza Strip into neighboring Arab countries, whereas some of the more ruthless commentators are suggesting, as Texas Mercury contributor Orrin Judd did, that Israel "need[s] to act extremely ruthlessly and very quickly to, in effect, depopulate Palestine. The more young Palestinian men they kill the more secure their own future will be." Such rapture. So easy it seems. Kill or ship them off, and Israel's problems will be solved, or at least abated.
In this essay I am not going to examine the morality of these proposals. I'll simply note that I find them disgusting, particularly as the people making them are those who have the luxury of speculating about such practices without having to live with the consequences. My main concern here is not questions of morality but, rather, of practicality. If carried out, would such a genocide or ethnic cleansing secure Israel's future? No, it would not. Even the minimum measure, "transfer", would ultimately prove a failure on three grounds: military, international and psychological.
Oh, the indignity, in just a few short months to go from a valued contributor to The Texas Mercury to its poster boy for genocidal mania; how the mighty have fallen...
Let me just defend myself briefly. First, if you'll note, Mr. Copold raises the genocide solution only to abhor it, he fails to explain why it wouldn't work. I actually agree with him on transfer. Relocating the Palestinians would be a disaster. If you find a rattlesnake in your living room, you don't move it to the garden; you kill it.
Harsh words, eh? An inhuman comparison? I know. As I said in the comments that Mr. Copold cites (A MACHIAVELLIAN MOMENT [BroJuddBlog, Sunday, March 31, 2002]), I too find the genocide solution disgusting and I'm awfully glad that the decision belongs to, and the killing will be done by, others. Yet I'm cognizant of the fact that the ancestors of the Brothers Judd committed a not dissimilar genocide when they came into contact with a native population whose "civilization" was so different from theirs that the two cultures found it impossible to live in peace. And I'm not one to beat my breast in shame at what they did, while enjoying the benefits. I honor their memory--including that of our own relative, John Locke, of modern day Hampton, NH who killed, and was eventually killed by, Indians.
I find it hard to believe that America would be as a great a nation as it is today if we had been forced to spend two hundred years carefully threading our way through the demands of respective Indian tribes. How many nations might there be within our borders if every tribe had demanded their own, as the Palestinians now do? What might our economy look like if there was a free-floating right-of-return, that allowed Indians to reclaim lands that had been taken from them? No, I can't find it in myself to condemn what they did, even though I'm glad I didn't have to do it. And despite the "Free Leonard Peletier" stickers you see sometimes and the periodic self-flagellation of the American Left, I doubt that any of you have ever lost a moments sleep over what was done to the Indians. In fact, I'll but a fair number of you resent the political correctness that forced your alma mater to get rid of its Indian mascot.
This was actually my point about the options facing Israel now. They can continue to seek peace or they can try to transfer some of the population, but these solutions will require their continual involvement in the repression of the Palestinians and this kind of continuous hands-on overlordship does eat away at a nation's moral fiber. Witness the eventual freeing and later desegregating of American blacks and the handover of power from whites to blacks in South Africa. A democracy simply can not long endure such despicable tyranny, even if necessary to its own survival, as was the case of Afrikaner South Africa. The moral price to be paid just becomes intolerable.
On the other hand, behave with utter ruthlessness, solve the problem in one generation, hopefully in one swift action, and no matter the amount of blood you shed, no matter the lives you take, no matter the blight on your own soul, the world will not long recall your action nor the succeeding generations of your own countrymen condemn you. We may think the Afrikaners were brutes for imposing apartheid, but no one ever mentions the extermination of the Bushmen. We may have turned the Holocaust into a fetish, but we welcomed Germany into NATO. We may decry the Rape of Nanking, but we rebuilt Japan and made it a bulwark of our own foreign policy. And while we justly castigate ourselves for the way we treated African Americans, no one seriously mourns what we did to the Indians. These are the cold hard facts of realpolitik.
Similarly, should it come to that awful eventuality and Israel be forced to savagely depopulate Palestine--by which, make no mistake, I mean kill Palestinian men, women, and children in the tens or even hundreds of thousands--there will be a brief international outcry, but that will end the matter. America will not abandon Israel no matter what action they take, so long as it ends quickly. The Arab states can not hope to win a war, so their leaders won't fight one. If their populations demand such a war, they will lose, badly. The international community might try to embargo Israel or put on sanctions, but without our cooperation this would be meaningless. And who is going to be willing to sacrifice American consumers and markets just to express their solidarity with the Palestinians? If you think France will actually put its money where its mouth is, you don't know the French. If you think Saudi Arabia's princes care enough about the Palestinians to give up their oil revenues, you really haven't been paying enough attention to the Middle East. And if you think that there still exists a significant body of opinion in Israel that is so guilt-plagued over their treatment of the Palestinians that they would rather see Israel destroyed than the Palestinians killed, I suspect you've not understood how radicalized popular opinion there has become as a result of the recent wave of bombings.
The tragedy in all this is not that it may happen, but that it will be the fault of the Palestinians when it does. If they stopped the violence today and accepted the last Israeli peace offer, they could immediately have a nation of their own and begin building a healthy society. Aid money would poor in, not least from America, Israel, and world Jewry. In fact, I bet they'd get more assistance from those three sources than from their Arab "brothers" and all of Europe combined. But they do not choose peace. They choose war. It is a war they will lose. All that remains to be determined is how many Palestinians will die in the process. Like Mr. Copold, I find the prospect of thousands of dead Palestinians disgusting, but I place the blame where it belongs : on the Palestinians.
MR. COPOLD RESPONDS :
I'll deal with your response in seven points, Orrin. You can post this on your blog if you wish.
First, you argue that a genocide would be different than a transfer, thus I did not address your point. Actually, the effect of an attempted genocide would be the same, indeed it would be worse. No matter how well the Israelis planned a prospective snuffing of the Palestinians, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, would escape Israel's grasp. Killing three million people is not an easy task, and it would be made more difficult by the inevitable war it would provoke with both Jordan and Egypt. Admittedly, these two countries would lose the conflict, but they would provide enough interference to gum up any genocide, and thus render it a transfer in effect. This is why I termed transfer alone the lesser action. Your action would be even worse because it would put some real fire in the Palestinians' bellies. Admittedly, I should've made this point clearer.
Second, about America's dealing with her own natives: In point of fact, your and my (maternal) ancestors did not immediately begin killing off Indians. In fact, for centuries, right up until the present, they negotiated and bargained with numerous tribes. They also intermixed, which is why you and I would most likely find a few non-European ancestors in our family trees given enough searching. The process was a rather long, drawn-out process of contention, some times friendly, more often not. And, even now, we still suffer (stupidly) cultural guilt spasms from the conflict.
Third, you claim history forgives genocides. This was certainly true in the time before modern communications, but now we have live satellite link-ups, which makes this an entirely different situation. Look at what the camera did to the Germans. Do we of today think of the Germans in the same manner as those who lived before Hitler did? No, we think of those dark grainy films with skeletal figures walking around. Yes, Germany was allowed into NATO, but at what cost? Fire-bombings, occupation and, even then, only the severe necessity of fending off the Soviets allowed them admission. The same with Japan. We have no severe threat to a strategic asset that Israel can help us with, unless it has to do with AIPAC's political funding.
Fourth, you believe the world will not impose serious sanctions on Israel, and then say, in effect, "So what if they do, the US wont?" I would point back to South Africa. For a very long time the US resisted joining these sanctions, but eventually backed down. Even the much-maligned French were in on the action. Now, remember, South Africa has all sorts of goodies to offer-gold, diamonds, uranium, etc-and yet the sanctions regime held. What does Israel have? Computer games, Holy Land tours, and some weapons. There's hardly an economic incentive to keep doing business with them. In fact, there's a lot incentive to keep them out of some markets, like weapons, where they compete with us and the Europeans.
Fifth point: I especially enjoyed your assertions that I do not know the French or the Saudis. As it happens, I spent time in Saudi Arabia during our last futile war and lived for a year on the French border when I was stationed in Germany. Like all people, yes, the Saudis can be a greedy lot, but they also accept a very strict religious regimen. This is not a top-down imposed model, either. I wouldn't dismiss them as spineless. After all, they provided us with effective backbone troops in our proxy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan (much to our later regret!). Given enough motivation, the Saudis will act with discipline. Of course, they don't really need to if the Europeans join in the boycott because all they would have to do is sell to them. The Europeans would probably be happy to play along because it would give them a chance to undercut the US without a direct confrontation, during which time they would give us yet another tiresome lecture on morality.
Six, you think the Israelis are up to this task, and that they can live with themselves. I might accept this for any other people, but here we're dealing with a country centered around the Yad Vashem. Remembering holocausts is the national past time for their intellectuals. Committing the act you suggest would directly contradict the very founding ethic of the state of Israel. Sure, at the moment, they're all very gung-ho, but you give it a few years, and it'll eat at them. Especially given the sanctions, the films and the tramautic impact such a number of close-range murders will have on Israel's soldiery. All of this will feed a desolation that Israel can ill afford, especially as she's already losing citizens to emigration.
Finally, I come to your most confusing point, the one about how this slaughter would be entirely the fault of the Palestinians. It's an interesting moral concept. If Palestinian civilians, who have lived under an undemocratic occupation for nearly four decades, would be responsible for their own genocide, then what can we say of the Israelis? They, we are so often told, live in the Mid-East's only democracy. Yet, with their votes, they supported an occupation of a captive people for decades where land was seized and given to settlers, where water was requisitioned and shipped to Israel, where, even pre-intifada, an person could find himself, for no reason, detained by Israel's forces indefinitely. In fact, like the Palestinians, those very Israelis have elected known terrorists, Yitzhak Shamir and Menachem Begin, as Prime Minister, not to mention the current leader, a known reprobate who's indirectly responsible for another massacre of civilians. You know, Orrin, using your very standard, we could really say that it's the Israelis themselves who are behind the suicide bombings. Of course, I guess they could just turn around and, like you and our dear Robert Kaplan, simply shrug, grin sheepishly and say "Gosh, sorry, I guess Machiavelli made me do it."
ORRIN RESPONDS :
(1) I actually did not mean that Israel would need to kill all the Palestinians. They needn't commit a true genocide. But they may well have to resort to the kind of firebombing or atomic bombing that we used in WWII, in which no regard was given to whether victims were combatants or non-combatants; it sufficed that they were German or Japanese. Similarly, Israel may have to stop trying to surgically wipe out terrorist and instead impose such a price in civilian lives that the Palestinians, like the equally fanatic Germans and Japanese will be forced to surrender.
It is of course foolish to speak of Israelis killing Palestinians as genocide anyway. They are both Semitic peoples, not distinct races, and genetic studies show them to be quite closely related. This is very much a war between brothers.
(2) Well, the Judds settled New England, so we started killing each other early on, particularly in King Joseph's War. Nor was there much intermarriage here in the East, where the settling was done by entire families coming from England. I realize the situation out there in the West was quite different.
(3) One can't help notice that Germany and Japan are among the wealthiest nations on earth. Obviously the cost wasn't too high. And if you don't like those examples, how about the Turks and their actions against both the Armenians and the Kurds? Yet they remain a good friend to the U. S. and Israel and a vital ally in the region.
(4) The U.S. only went along with sanctions on South Africa after they ceased to be a key strategic country for Cold War purposes. So long as the Soviet Union was a threat, we would never have allowed this naval chokepoint and important source of raw materials to fall into the hands of non-Western peoples. Also, participating in the sanctions regime was popular with a significant voting block--black Americans--while sanctions on Israel would alienate a key group and a wealthy and politically active one at that--American Jews. It ain't gonna happen.
(5) I'm sorry; I meant a general "you", as in the reader, not you, Mr. Copold, in particular. But the idea that the Saudi leadership follows the strict dictates of Islam seems to me untrue from everything I've read. And it seems unlikely that they would risk their luxurious lives for the Palestinians. As for the idea that the Europeans would participate in any kind of economic retaliation that included us as a target, I think we have to assume that even as anti-American and anti-Semitic as Europe's elites have become they would not actually risk open warfare with the U.S. and Israel, which would be a serious possibility in such a scenario. I'd think the regular citizens of Europe must still harbor some loyalty to America, which has saved them in the last three world wars, even if the intellectuals don't.
(6) I wonder if you don't miss the point of Yad Vashem by approaching this from the Palestinian side. The point of Holocaust remembrance is that never again will Jews stand by as enemies try wiping them from the Earth. This is precisely the goal that radical Islam seems to have set itself and that the Palestinians in particular are embarked upon. If the choice is between dead Palestinians and dead Jews, I just don't see what alternative the Israelis really have. And no one, no one, seems to have any idea how to get the Palestinians to stop killing Jews unless Israel signs its own death warrant by giving Yasar Arafat everything he's demanded. If you know of an end game scenario whereby Palestinians lay down their explosives and try to live in peace with Israel, I'd be happy to hear it.
(7) America willfully slaughtered Japanese civilians in WWII. We even effectively lured them in to Hiroshima and Nagasaki by sparing those cities in earlier conventional bombing plans, so that they would be pristine when we nuked them and we'd be able to see exactly how much damage we did. We did so because we believed it right and fitting to hold a people responsible for the actions of their government and because we thought that we could get Japan to surrender immediately, saving as many as a million American lives. Sure there are folks on the Left who consider this to have been something akin to a war crime, but poll the American people and see how many feel any guilt about it. More to the point, poll America in 1945 and see how few would have felt any. By what stretch of the imagination would we deny Israel the same right to defend its people, even if the cost in Palestinian lives is horrific? And, as I said, the Palestinians can avoid this fate quite easily. All they need to do is pursue peace instead of war. If their leaders won't do it, the people should get rid of them. If they don't they face potentially awful consequences, for which I think it fair to say they will ultimately be responsible themselves.
I'd think your point about Sharon actually proves my point. The accusations about his role in the Sabra and Shatilla (I may well have those names wrong) massacres did not prevent him from becoming Prime Minister, did they? You might even have to consider the possibility that they helped him to take power at this time, a time when Israelis may indeed want just such a man at the helm.
Finally, let's turn to Machiavelli again :
[A] dispute arises whether it is better to be loved than feared, or the reverse. The response is that one would want to be both the one and
the other; but because it is difficult to put them together, it is much safer to be feared than loved, if one has to lack one of the two.
I do not believe that genocide, in the sense of murdering all the Palestinian people, is necessary, wise, or morally defensible. But I do think peace between Palestine and Israel will only come when the Palestinians truly fear the Israelis. This may require a brutality that will be called genocidal or be compared to ethnic cleansing, and so I accepted the rhetorical challenge. I actually have great faith in the Jewish people, that they will kill not one more person than is necessary to secure a just and lasting peace. But I have no doubt that they will kill however many as it requires to achieve this peace and to protect the nation of Israel and the Jewish people. In this I, and I suspect most Americans, support them 100%, no matter what we choose to call it.
"A REPUBLIC, IF YOU CAN KEEP IT" :Wellstone's folly? : The Wisconsin senator's amendment could be McCain-Feingold's poison pill (Mickey Kaus, April 5, 2002, SLATE.COM)
[A]long came Paul Wellstone, the Senate's most liberal member. Wellstone saw McCain-Feingold's protection of 'advocacy' groups as a 'loophole' allowing 'special interests' to run last-minute election ads. (Since corporate and union money was already banished in the bill, Wellstone was presumably worried mainly about money from rich individuals.) Last year, Wellstone pushed an amendment to extend McCain Feingold's ban on last-minute ads to non-profits like 'the NRA, the Sierra Club, the Christian Coalition, and others'.
Under the Wellstone Amendment, these organizations could only advertise using money raised under strict 'hard money' limits - no more than $5,000 per individual. So if you wanted to give the Sierra Club $6,000 to denounce some environment - raping legislator, you'd be out of luck.
Because Wellstone's addition wasn't 'drafted with a close eye to past Supreme Court decisions,' McCain-Feingold backers saw the amendment as a poison pill, inviting the Court to strike down their law. Both McCain and Feingold cast votes against it. 'If I thought it was constitutional, I would have voted for it,' McCain explained. But, in a highly embarrassing episode, Wellstone's amendment passed. (Some votes came from reform opponents who wanted to screw up the McCain-Feingold bill. But mainly Wellstone's win revealed a dirty little secret about campaign finance reform - it was the most unconstitutional parts of the bill that were most popular in Congress,
precisely because they suppressed the last-minute TV ads that incumbent Congressmen worry will be used against them.)
At the outset let us admit that The Brothers Judd are not believers in the doctrine of judicial review. There seems to us no compelling reason why after Congress has passed a law and the President has signed it the Court should have the final word on its constitutionality. This stands the notion of coequal branches of government on its head. It is often argued that this provides a kind of last line of defense of our rights, but in practice the Court has displayed a consistent contempt for those rights. From Dred Scott to Plessy v. Ferguson to Koromatsu to Buckley v. Valeo to Roe v. Wade, the Court rather than overturning the most contemptible violations of civil rights has effectively enshrined them and given them the weight of Law, as if the Constitution required such results.
That said, as conservatives we would be reluctant to simply dispose of the tradition of judicial review. Instead, we would support a Constitutional Amendment that would require the Court to muster a 2/3 majority before ruling that a law violates the Constitution and that would allow Congress to override the Court's rulings by a simple majority and a Presidential signature. And we recognize that judicial review is a fact of life and understand why McCain and Feingold would have tried crafting legislation that would survive the Court's scrutiny, but find it strange that even folks who are as bright and opinionated as Mr. Kaus would analyze the bill as if the constitutionality of the bill depended on its compliance with past Court decisions. If the law violates the Constitution, which we believe it does and Mr. Kaus certainly seems to think it does, then just say so; the Court be damned.
In fact, we don't think the standard of constitutionality even depends on what Congress, the Executive, and the Courts together have to say. We consider ourselves and our fellow citizens to be perfectly capable of reading the Constitution and understanding both its intent and its language. And nothing seems more obvious than that the free speech protections of the First Amendment should apply most strictly to political speech, the Constitution after all is first and foremost a political document. Since time immemorial, those who wield political power have always sought to limit the rights of those who don't; little surprise then that our elected and appointed officials would want to shut the rest of us up. But this is precisely the eventuality that the Founders sought to prevent by means of a written constitution.
So when even supporters of campaign finance reform acknowledge that it is constitutionally dubious, and commentators from the pages of Slate to those of the National Review are openly skeptical, and citizens groups from the NRA to the ACLU to the Sierra Club to the Christian Coalition are adamantly opposed, we feel no compunction about suggesting that this is a case where concerned citizens should practice civil disobedience in order to stop a violation of all of our constitutional rights. Just as it was wrong to enslave blacks, even though Congress, Presidents and the Court allowed it; just as it was wrong to segregate blacks from whites, even though Congress, Presidents and the Court allowed it; just as it was wrong to put Americans of Japanese descent in concentration camps, even though Congress, Presidents and the Court allowed it; it is wrong to accept limitations on our political speech just because Congress, Presidents and the Court may allow them. It is therefore incumbent on all right thinking Americans to resist this abrogation of our rights.
As Mr. Kaus asks later in his essay :
Which America do you want to live in - one where citizens are free to join together to proselytize for causes they believe in, or one where they are free up to $5,000 and go to jail if they spend $5,001?
We would ask : does the mere fact that Congress and the executive branch have passed and the Court has allowed certain limits on "hard money" contributions in the past mean that we should accept them as constitutional? Which America do you want to live in--one where the political class can send you to prison for spending money on political activities or one where we refuse to accept limitations on the very type of speech that resides at the heart of the First Amendment? If Congress, the President, and the Court are creating a kind of America that we don't want to live in, should we continue to follow, like sheep to the slaughter, or should we seek to vindicate the principles of our Constitution? The individuals and groups who oppose this legislation should band together and violate its provisions en masse, then let's see if Congress and the President and the Courts have the stomach to see Bible toters and gun nuts and tree huggers and all the rest of us who make up their constituencies prosecuted for these "crimes".
It will be said that it is hypocritical for law and order conservatives to advocate violating the law. Perhaps it is. But the Constitution exists to protect us from the illegitimate exercise of power by our government. The Constitution is supposed to stop the government from passing legislation that violates its express provisions. But it frequently fails. When it does so, it is the duty of patriots to say so and to resist.
It will be said that if everyone is allowed to resist the law whenever they think it is unconstitutional that mere anarchy will be loosed upon the nation. This is just wrong. For the most part, laws exist because there is a broad consensus of opinion in support of them. The few who object and who would violate them will be dealt with and few will raise a peep in their defense. It is only when enforcement of the law forces a society to view itself with shame--as when whites had to confront the despicable treatment of blacks in the Jim Crow South--that civil disobedience is effective. And who will fail to be ashamed when we start arresting people for attempting to speak their minds on political issues?
HOIST ON HIS OWN PETARD :A Treaty Bush Shouldn't 'Unsign' DAVID J. SCHEFFER, April 6, 2002, NY Times)
President Bush recently said that although the campaign reform bill he signed on March 27 is "flawed," it would "improve the current system overall." Similar reasoning led to President Bill Clinton's decision to sign the Rome treaty in 2000.
The treaty that Mr. Scheffer is complaining about would create a permanent "international criminal court", that would expose American citizens to judgments which by definition would not come from a body of their peers. In fact, as we see resentment of America's status as the world's sole superpower (actually, with the precipitous decline of Russia and England, I wonder if it isn't time to consider the possibility that we are close to being the world's only power, the only nation [with the exception of Israel, which is a virtual American satellite] that maintains a truly formidable, non-nuclear, military), the court might well consist of judges, prosecutors, and jurors whose national interests are antithetical to America's.
President Bush's recent signing of the Campaign Finance Reform (CFR) bill was a horrible mistake, one for which the Brothers believe he should be impeached (along with every congressman who voted for it), but it was at least an entirely predictable and traditional instance of the tyranny of the majority. It is one of the fundamental weaknesses of democracy that at any given moment the majority can strip the minority of their constitutional rights and, unless the Court is willing to defy public opinion, which it seldom is in these cases, can get away with it.
But the international criminal court represents something entirely different and truly frightening, the ceding of American sovereignty to non-Americans and the subjecting of our citizens to the machinations of a tribunal over which America and Americans have no control. Where are the voices of all the folks who shriek about the injustice of President Bush's military tribunals for terrorists and the Taliban when we now face international tribunals for Americans? How can it be wrong to try a foreign member of al Qaeda under tribunal rules but okay to try an American under foreign tribunal rules?
President Bush can't redeem the abhorrent signature he put on CFR, but it is absolutely essential that he remove America's signature from the Rome treaty.
April 7, 2002
ON THE OTHER HAND :Lifelines to the Future (Thomas L. Friedman, April 7, 2002, NY Times)
President Bush's speech last week was particularly important because he put America in exactly the role it should be playing: restoring clear lines. He drew a clear line for Israelis — that no matter how many settlements they've built, any peace deal has to be based on the 1967 lines. He drew a clear line for Palestinians — that suicide bombers are not "martyrs, they're murderers."
But Mr. Bush did not draw the line down the middle. He was more critical of Mr. Arafat than Mr. Sharon because he knows something the Arabs have consistently tried to ignore: Ariel Sharon did not come from outer space. He was elected only after Mr. Arafat walked away from the best opportunity ever for creating a Palestinian state: the Clinton plan. Mr. Arafat deliberately chose to use military pressure, instead of diplomacy or nonviolence, to extract more out of Israel, and Israelis turned to Mr. Sharon as their revenge. This context is critical, and Mr. Bush has refused to ignore it.
Though we've frequently been critical of Tom Friedman (see below), the specter of Israel's annihilation seems to have concentrated his attention wonderfully, leading to some of the most explicitly pro-Israel, pro-Western columns that we can ever recall him writing. The above is one of the better takes on Bush's ultimatum that you're likely to find.
THE LEXUS OR ANARCHY :States of Discord : The worldviews of Thomas Friedman and Robert Kaplan are about as different as a modem and a bayonet. (Foreign Policy, Spring 2002)
Tom Friedman : The dirty little secret about globalization—and it takes a lot of countries a long time to figure it out—is that the way to succeed in globalization is to focus on the fundamentals. It’s not about the wires or about bandwidth or about modems. It’s about reading, writing, and arithmetic. It’s about churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques. It’s about rule of law, good governance, institution building, free press, and a process of democratization. If you get these fundamentals right, then the wires will find you, and the wires will basically work. But if you get them wrong, nothing will save you.
Robert D. Kaplan : I agree that good things are going to happen in a more global world (and humanists will duly celebrate them), but foreign policy crises are about what goes wrong. In the short run, I’m pessimistic. Remember that poverty does not lead to revolutions—development does. The revolutions in Mexico and France were preceded by years of dramatic and dynamic economic development, as well as urbanization and population movements. And what have we seen for the last 10 years, which Tom has described so well in his columns? Incredible dynamism, with middle classes emerging in China, Indonesia, and Brazil. But this development will not automatically lead to West German–style democracies. They
may eventually, but for the next 20 or 30 years, they will experience more and more turbulence.
This is an interesting, though somewhat platitudinous, exchange between two of the most influential foreign affairs journalists in America. We've reviewed Mr. Friedman's Lexus and the Olive Tree and Mr. Kaplan's Coming Anarchy and Warrior Politics. As you'll see, we have our quarrels with both men, but Mr. Kaplan seems to have the better of this argument. Yes, globalization, as Mr. Friedman says, seems to be an inexorable force that will affect everyone, everywhere, but as Mr. Kaplan says, this process is likely to be awfully ugly for a while.
If you just take a look at the "fundamentals" that Mr. Friedman says you need to get right in order for globalization to work in your nation, it seems obvious that many nations will require a genuine revolution before they can reach that point. In fact, mightn't it be proper to look at the current clash with Islam as the very bloody death throes of a culture that doesn't want to adopt these fundamentals? Mr. Friedman's blithe assumption that you just tinker with the fundamentals of a religion and you're ready for globalization seems to ignore the fact that most believers take their own fundamentals pretty seriously and don't much want to switch to ours. The process by which they are forced to switch, either by the pressure from within (of a population envious of the standard of living in the West), or from without (at the barrel of the West's guns) can't help but be violent and disruptive.
TEACHING OLD DOGS OLD TRICKS :U.S. Eases Demand for Israel Pullout (Barry Schwied, April 5, 2002, Associated Press)
Secretary of State Colin Powell will leave for the region Sunday night and has no plans to meet with Yasser Arafat, Fleischer said without elaboration.
Powell's short-term goal is a cease-fire to stop the bloodletting.
His long-term goal is to start Israel and the Palestinians on a peacemaking track.
Both goals are elusive. Powell is on the spot...
It only took the AP a day or two to realize that Colin Powell lost by winning. As the head of the State Department, he's the de facto head of the pro-Arab and pro-peace forces in the government. Now he has to get Arafat and the rest of the Arabs to act like responsible heads of state who actually care about peace, their people, and coexistence with Israel. If he fails, as how can he not, their side fails and the hawks (led by Bush himself) gain the upper hand.
You have to wonder if the major media aren't making a mistake in having their political reporters cover the Bush administration. Perhaps they, and we, would be better served if they had their business writers cover him. The politicos seem oblivious to the bureaucratic infighting that is particularly important in this our most corporatist presidency. They see Powell at the press conference and headed to the Middle East and think he's in control. They fail to look a little deeper and understand the futile task he's been given.
COLD COMFORT :Sacred Cruelties (Maureen Dowd, April 7, 2002, NY Times)
At precisely the moment when religion should have a calming influence, it has a dispiriting influence. Just when people need religion to bring them peace, it brings them war or crisis or abuse or just plain pain.
As Ms Dowd begins her column we initially seem to be embarked on a puerile search for comfort in the arms of religion. She like many moderns seems to want religion to be a kind of spiritual comfort food, making no demands of us, merely telling us that God, or Gaia, or L. Ron Hubbard, or whoever, loves us just the way we are. She's apparently unfamiliar with such fundamental verses as these :
Matthew 10: 32-39
Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.
But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.
He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.
He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
Bad enough that she quite completely misapprehends the very purpose of religion, but Ms Dowd goes on to a really appalling comparison of Israeli settlers and the unfortunate but rather innocuous comments by the Reverend Billy Graham about Jewish domination of the American media, made 30 years ago, to the current pedophilia scandal in the Catholic Church and the wave of terrorism engulfing Islam. Now, I realize that her political correctness requires her to assert the moral equivalency of these four very different events; God forbid she should single out one or two religions for criticism, and not indict them all. But what can possibly be immoral or
antireligious about Israeli homesteading?
And while the Reverend Graham's remarks are in bad taste it is monstrous to judge this great and good man by a couple of unpleasant utterances as against a life devoted to the service of others and a lifelong support of Israel. As he could tell Ms Dowd, one of the dispiriting things that Christianity teaches us is that we are all sinners, that in the course of a lifetime we will all say and do things which on reflection we recognize to have been wrong, even evil. So if you wish to comb through an 83 year old man's life for a flaw or two, you're certain to find them. So what? What does that have to do with the quality of religion in general or of his beliefs in particular?
If religion doesn't serve the purpose Ms Dowd wants it to, perhaps the problem is with her, not with religion. And if her standard for judging another human being is to seize upon the stupid things they have said, then she should fear the Judgment Day.
April 5, 2002
KEEP THE ASPIDISTRA FLYING! :Down with St. George : Fans of the War on Terror, Which Sounds Ever More Like Nineteen Eighty-Four, Still Venerate George Orwell. They Can Have Him. (John R. MacArthur, March 30, 2002, Toronto Globe & Mail)
I must admit at least one thing will never be the same for me post 9/11: my reflexively good opinion of George Orwell, icon-saint of the non-communist left, whose holy reputation rests in part on its usefulness to the anticommunist, neoconservative right.
In truth, I've never felt that attached to Orwell; somehow his writing never evoked the passionate admiration I hold for Albert Camus or Graham Greene. But I've always felt obliged to exalt Orwell, whatever my gut feelings. Within the small corner of the media that I inhabit, one could say that it's politically correct to love Orwell; and to be sure, there's much to love about his work, the journalism, of course, but also his remarkable talent for exposing hypocrisy and demolishing cant.
So I bristled when I was contradicted on a radio show by journalist Michael Barone, who invoked Orwell to excuse civilian casualties in Afghanistan caused by U.S. bombing.
The Brothers are of the opinion that you can tell the three most significant political philosophers of the last three centuries by the desire of the Left to wrest them from the Right. Adam Smith (18th Century), Alexis de Tocqueville (19th) and George Orwell (20th) are respectively the original champion of Free Markets; the great explicator/sage critic of American democracy; and the most devastating literary opponent of Marxist socialism. (Each is, of course, more complex than this caricature, but that is how we recall them.) But their continuing influence and elevated reputations make them particularly threatening to the Left, which has therefore been forced to wish away the conservative implications of their thought and to gin up theories about how, if read "properly", they are really liberals.
By a serendipitous confluence of events we see this tendency on display with all three in recent years. The newest and best translation of Democracy in America, by Harvard's lonely conservative, Harvey Mansfield, prompted numerous critics to complain about the Right's co-opting of de Tocqueville. To them we can only say : read the Memoir on Pauperism :
Any measure that establishes legal charity on a permanent basis and gives it administrative form thereby creates an idle and lazy class, living at the expense of the industrial and working class.
and then try to make a coherent case for the "liberal" de Tocqueville.
Meanwhile, a variety of recent books have argued that because Adam Smith recognized the deficiencies of capitalism, he should not be read as its champion. This is something akin to saying that because Einstein resisted the most awesome implications of relativity, he should be considered an opponent of the theory. In fact, the only remaining and compelling criticism of capitalism is the conservative critique, as witness Albert Jay Nock :
Economism can build a society which is rich, prosperous, powerful, even one which has a reasonably wide diffusion of material well-being. It can not build one which is lovely, one which has savour and depth, and which exercises the irresistible attraction that loveliness wields. Perhaps by the time economism has run its course the society it has built may be tired of itself, bored by its own hideousness, and may despairingly consent to annihilation, aware that it is too ugly to be let live any longer.
Smith's similar recognition that capitalism is not sufficient to produce a good society and a good life can not change the fact that he understood it to be the most efficient and productive economic system. His belief that it should be tempered with Christian kindness makes him more of a conservative figure, rather than less.
Finally, there's Orwell. Even the Modern Library, whose Top 100 lists are otherwise mostly littered with dreck, was forced to include both 1984 and Animal Farm in its Top 100 Novels of the Twentieth Century and Homage to Catalonia on its Top Nonfiction of the Twentieth Century. Taken together these books offer a truly devastating portrait of both the reality and the illusion of utopian socialism, a portrait of betrayal, murder, and totalitarian horror. In effect, they stand as a rebuke to the entire Left project of imposing equality via the State.
Despite this cold hard truth, the Left has held its collective nose and claimed Orwell as its own. This exercise in either self-delusion or outright falsification requires them to focus solely on the truth that Orwell was a Socialist and did fight against Franco in the Spanish Civil War but then to ignore virtually everything he ever wrote. Mr. MacArthur seems to have had what must have been a nearly unique and shockingly unpleasant experience for a man of the Left, when he picked up an Orwell essay and actually read it. If more folk of his ilk did so, perhaps they'd disabuse themselves of the notion that Orwell was a soulmate of theirs and realize the contempt in which he held them, even going so far as to inform on them to the British government. Orwell speaks clearly enough for himself, if only you read him.
Here's just one example, from a work that happens to be on-line, Shooting an Elephant : this is one of the great anti-Imperialism pieces ever written, but it is important to comprehend Orwell's argument. His concern is not with the effects of colonialism on the natives, but with the way it corrupts the souls of their overlords, forcing them into morally repellent actions in order to maintain control over the native population. That's not exactly the heart-sick sympathy for the oppressed that we'd expect from a Leftist, is it?
CUZ AND EFFECT :All Things Considered (NPR) had a story yesterday that seemed to suggest that first cousins who mate do not have a significantly greater risk of having children with birth defects than those of us who eschew consanguinity. But when the lead researcher explained the study, it sounded to me like her numbers were screwy. So we called in Charles Murtaugh, the blessed bio blogger, to clarify the situation :
On NPR, the lead researcher was implying that there was an "insignificant" increased risk, but the study actually suggests that the risk nearly doubles -- it's just that it goes from a very low number (around 4%) to another very low number (around 6%).
Just another example of the media's selective use of statistics. If it were shown that driving an SUV brought about a similar increase in the risk of fatal accidents, do you think the front page of the New York Times would proclaim that there are "Few risks seen to SUV passengers"?
Mr. Murtaugh goes on to differ with me over the moral implications of the issue, and he makes entirely valid points. I do have one question though : I'm an evolution skeptic but I wonder if it's a good idea to limit the gene pool in the way that such intermarriage would tend to do?
IDEAS HAVE CONSEQUENCES :Sins of Petition: How the left got tricked into opposing cloned embryo research. (Chris Mooney, 5.6.02, American Prospect)
In truth...left-liberal support for the Rifkin statement is rather less than it seemed. Of the five ostensibly left-leaning individuals besides Rifkin that the Times centrally cited, one (Emory University women's historian Elizabeth Fox-Genovese) actually voted for Bush; two (Our Bodies, Ourselves co-author Judy Norsigian and New York University sociologist Todd Gitlin) have since endorsed a statement that deliberately avoids a Brownback-style ban; one (University of Maryland political scientist Benjamin Barber) can't even remember signing Rifkin's petition in the first place; and one is the always iconoclastic Norman Mailer.
And that's just the beginning of confusion over this petition. Though Rifkin's 68-name list does include some true-believing environmentalists and feminists who continue to make common cause with Brownback, a number of its more influential signatories have begun to back frantically away from the statement. Many are stunned to discover they had put their name to a petition arguing for the criminalization of medical research.
First a disclaimer : I have absolutely no evidence for the following theory; it is purely speculative. That said, I think we see here the functioning of both Leon Kass's "wisdom of repugnance" and the iron fist of political correctness clamping down on Leftist academics. It certainly seems, though each of them chooses to plead ignorance instead, that the folks who are now begging off of this anti-cloning petition originally signed it because they felt the same visceral repulsion at the prospect of this kind of experimentation on humans as most of the rest of us feel. But then they realized, mostly via browbeating from their friends on the Left (like Chris Mooney), that their hastily expressed opinion has ramifications that they aren't willing to face up to. After all, if we try limiting limiting what scientists and doctors do with and to fetuses, merely because we know in our hearts that it is deeply troubling, then mightn't we have to reconsider the advisability of letting them kill fetuses by the tens of millions? I mean, surely it can't be worse to screw around with a kid's genes than it is to kill her, can it?
And, let's face it, that's the subtext of this whole discussion. Either humans are mere meat, upon which science should be allowed to work its wonders, the consequences by damned, or else each person has a unique soul and God-endowed dignity and such treatment is abhorrent and antihuman. Pity these poor quick-penned intellectuals who strayed into Left heresy and now must don hair shirts and repent; it must be a terrifying thing when your heart contradicts the politically-correct diktats you're supposed to follow.
UPDATE : FORBIDDEN KNOWLEDGE :
http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99992133>Cloning pregnancy claim prompts outrage (Emma Young and Damian Carrington, 05 April 02, 2002, NewScientist.com)
A woman taking part in a controversial human cloning programme is eight weeks pregnant, claims Severino Antinori, one of the two controversial fertility specialists leading the effort.
"One woman among thousands of infertile couples in the programme is eight weeks pregnant," Antinori is reported as saying at a meeting in the United Arab Emirates. If true, this would represent the first human cloning pregnancy.
Antinori's colleague, Panos Zavos at the Andrology Institute of America in Lexington, Kentucky, had previously announced that the pair planned to clone a baby by the end of 2001. Both Zavos's office and Antinori's office in Rome refuse to confirm or deny the report to New Scientist.
Antinori claims to be able to screen the embryos to reduce the risk of abnormalities but Gardner says: "There's no way you can do it - you could only spot gross changes in chromosomes or in the number of chromosomes." There can be single gene defects, he adds, and problems with imprinting - the latter do not just relate to malformation but are also linked to cancer.
Rudolf Jaenisch, a cloning expert at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says: "I am appalled that these people are attempting to produce cloned humans. This is irresponsible and repugnant and ignores the overwhelming scientific evidence from seven mammalian species cloned so far.
"All evidence indicates that most clones die early - the lucky ones - and the rare survivors may have serious abnormalities which may become apparent only later," he says. "Antinori seems to use humans as guinea pigs to advance his questionable agenda. He needs to be stopped."
Donald Bruce, of the Church of Scotland's Science, Religion and Technology project, says: "Antinori is conducting experiments on people, playing on their vulnerability. His cavalier attitude to the significance of the animal cloning experiments and the risks involved puts him beyond the pale of responsible scientists."
Which calls to mind this quote from Nicholas Rescher :
Some information is simply not safe for us--not because there is something wrong with its possession in the abstract, but because it is the sort of thing we humans are not well suited to cope with. There are various things we simply ought not not to know. If we did not have to live our lives amidst a fog of uncertainty about a whole range of matters that are actually of fundamental interest and importance to us, it would no longer be a human mode of existence that we would live. Instead we would become a being of another sort, perhaps angelic, perhaps machine-like, but certainly not human.
PC PULITZER PLAGIARISM PANIC:The invaluable Dennis Loy Johnson of Moby Lives (a great book site) has printed a speech that no one else is apparently willing to touch FOR HISTORY'S SAKE: THREE PULITZERS THAT SHOULD BE REVOKED (Philip Nobile, April 5, 2002, A talk given at the Columbian University graduate student conference, "History of Activism – History as Activism") which asks :
Regarding its rogue prize–winners — Alex Haley, David McCullough and Doris Kearns Goodwin — what will the Pulitzer Board do? History awaits the answer.
Mr. Nobile believes that all three authors should have their Pulitzers revoked : Haley (Roots) & Goodwin (No Ordinary Time) for plagiarism; McCullough (Truman) for using a fabricated document to make it look like Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved as many as one million American lives.
The Brothers Judd believe though that the problem lies deeper than the misdeeds of the authors and is really located in the political bias of most award committees. As our reviews of Truman (1992)(David McCullough 1933-), No Ordinary Time : Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt : The Home Front in World War II (Doris Kearns Goodwin 1943-), and the other notoriously fabricated recent award winner Arming America : The Origins of a National Gun Culture (2000) (Michael A. Bellesiles) suggest, if you're a pretty good history writer and you are willing to tell the Leftist satraps what they want to hear, the prizes will be forthcoming. We are less bothered by the technical plagiarism and falsification, which after all are an integral part of literary tradition, than by the fact that these three decorated volumes are antihistorical in their respective whitewashing of Harry S Truman and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and in the claim (by Bellesiles) that guns were exceedingly rare in early America. Since their very theses are false, mightn't we anticipate some chicanery by the authors when it comes time to buttress their specious arguments?
We admire Mr. Nobile for his insistence that the Pulitzer Prizes be revoked and believe Bellesiles's Bancroft Prize should be too. And we offer huzzahs to Mr. Johnson for airing these views. But we regard the systemic political corruption of the awarding institutions to be a far more significant problem, one that mere revocations of bogus prizes will do nothing to cure.
April 4, 2002
FORCING THE CONTRADICTIONS :Bush Says U.S. Is to Assume Stronger Role in Ending Violence (DAVID STOUT, April 4, 2002, NY Times)
The chairman of the Palestinian Authority has not consistently opposed or confronted terrorists.
At Oslo and elsewhere, Chairman Arafat renounced terror as an instrument of his cause, and he agreed to control it. He's not done so. The situation in which he finds himself today is largely of his own making. He's missed his opportunities and thereby betrayed the hopes of the people he is supposed to lead.
Given his failure, the Israeli government feels it must strike at terrorist networks that are killing its citizens. Yet Israel must understand that its response to these recent attacks is only a temporary measure. All parties have their own responsibilities, and all parties owe it to their own people to act.
We all know today's situation runs the risk of aggravating long-term bitterness and undermining relationships that are critical to any hope of peace. I call on the Palestinian people, the Palestinian Authority, and our friends in the Arab world to join us in delivering a clear message to terrorists. Blowing yourself up does not help the Palestinian cause. To the contrary, suicide bombing missions could well blow up the best and only hope for a Palestinian state.
All states must keep their promise, made in a vote in the United Nations, to actively oppose terror in all its forms. No nation can pick and choose its terrorist friends. I call on the Palestinian Authority and all governments in the region to do everything in their power to stop terrorist activities, to disrupt terrorist financing, and to stop inciting violence by glorifying terror in state-owned media or telling suicide bombers they are martyrs.
They're not martyrs. They're murderers. And they undermine the cause of the Palestinian people. Those governments, like Iraq, that reward parents for the sacrifice of their children are guilty of soliciting murder of the worst kind. All who care about the Palestinian people should join in condemning and acting against groups like al-Aqsa, Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and all the groups which oppose the peace process and seek the destruction of Israel.
This was the President's strongest statement since the immediate aftermath of the 9-11 bombings, as he issued an ultimatum to Palestine, Syria and Iran ordering them to choose sides in the war on terrorism. His requirement that Palestinians cease attacking Israel and that Syria and Iran cease aiding terrorists confronts them all with choices that may have terrible consequences. There may still be time for the other two nations to draw back from the brink, but by drawing a line in the sand at a point where it is almost inevitable that the Palestinians will cross it, President Bush seems to have laid the groundwork for a full scale American tilt towards Israel.
Yasar Arafat has always had a genius for saving his own skin, but one doubts that the Palestinians are any longer capable of accepting this final offer of peace; they seem too much in love with death. So the further terror attacks that they will almost certainly launch, or permit to be launched, will in effect make it their own fault that the U.S. sides with Israel. Even more important, by speaking out so forcefully against Hamas, which seems the only potential successor organization to Arafat's PLO, the President basically warned that the next Palestinian leadership is already part of the axis of evil. Palestines only options appear to be immediate peace or a future war with both Israel and America, a war that they can't conceivably win. Pretty grim prognosis, eh?
If you heard the speech it was really striking how much the language and the tone in which the President delivered it resembled those earlier speeches in which he declared war on al Qaeda. We certainly don't view the suicide bombers as legitimate warriors, but the Palestinians and many others in the Islamic world do; yet the President referred to them as "murderers". That's very harsh, though entirely appropriate, and indicates a real disregard for Palestinian popular opinion and desires, as does his statement that the situation Arafat finds himself in his largely of his own making. It sure sounded like the President is prepared to consider this conflict to be the next front in the war on terror and Palestinian terror organizations, including the PLO, to be the next target.
The warnings to Syria and Iran even seemed to reflect a growing willingness on the President's part to contemplate the wholesale destabilization of Middle Eastern dictatorships. At this point we have toppled the Taliban, are doing joint-training exercises with Pakistan's mortal enemy India, are making plans for war with Iraq and have now issued ultimatums to Iran and Syria; from one end of the Middle East to the other, tyrannical Islamicist regimes are boxed in by democratic enemies who seem increasingly inclined to get rid of them. It is said that war forces the contradictions. Our history of support for these Arab (and Persian) dictatorships seems to be one of the contradictions that may fall, a casualty of the war on terror. Good riddance.
April 3, 2002
COLLABORATING AGAINST THE SPECIES :A Dim View of a `Posthuman Future' (NICHOLAS WADE, April 2, 2002, NY Times)
If the human mind and body are shaped by a bunch of genes, as the decoding of the human genome seems to underscore, then biotechnologists will one day be able to change both and perhaps, in seeking to refine the imperfect human clay, will alter human nature.
That prospect should be worrying a lot more people, in the view of the political theorist Francis Fukuyama, because history's central question — that of what kind of society best suits human needs — has been settled only if human nature remains as it is, warts and all.
I've just started reading Francis Fukuyama's new book, Our Posthuman Future, but right away it's provoked a question in my mind. I accept Mr. Fukuyama's position, as I think even his foes would, that our emerging capacity to manipulate our genetic makeup and our brain functions seems to have set us on a course which will see us become something other than we are now, something not recognizably human. As humans we are defined not merely by biology, as are other species, but by mental processes, by our knowledge of our own mortality, by our free will, etc. Should we reach a point, and it appears to be within our theoretical grasp, where we can change human behavior through drugs and other treatments, where we can breed humans to meet certain desired blueprints, and where at least the DNA pattern of a given person can be immortal, then we will have ceased to be human. We may still be classified as homo sapiens or whatever, but these beings will be so much different than we are--with cause to fear death; with the tendency to violence programmed out or inhibited by drugs; with all unusual social behaviors, from homosexuality to gregariousness, removed; with no baldness, no shortness, no fatness, no physical trait that might distinguish them from their fellows in the slightest--that it would be absurd to consider them human.
It is, of course, entirely possible that this is a consummation devoutly to be wished. Perhaps it is our destiny to become absolutely perfect and to leave this benighted stage of our evolution far behind. God knows we humans are a turbulent lot. At nearly all times in human history about half of the population has wished to achieve the kind of security that this future foretells. Everyone will be the same, so there'll be no envy. Everyone will be drugged into happiness. Life will be just as static and boring, but luxurious and safe, as ever a utopian dreamed it could be. There is something to be said for such a society.
I oppose it utterly.
I'm fat, bald (except my back), wall-eyed, obstinate, ill-tempered, lazy, arrogant, a physical coward, an intellectual bully, etc., etc., etc.. I, like you, am a terrifying, yet wonderful, combination of any number of entirely human qualities that someone might well wish to see removed from the species, and which surely will be in the "Posthuman Future." But I do not welcome the prospect of my own demise. I do not see anything desirable about a future that has no place in it for me, or for you, or my children, or for any of the billions of incredibly difficult, but mostly marvelous human beings around us. In fact, I don't think it is going too far to say that those who do eagerly seek such a future are quislings to the species, are filled with such a self-loathing as to make them truly antihuman.
The proponents of this future cloak themselves in the mantle of human freedom, yet they work toward a future that must surely be devoid of both humans and freedom. And, in truth, freedom is something that we humans celebrate, uniquely among all the animals. There is really no reason that our successors should value it. They after all will have no need of freedom, able as they may be to simply manipulate their psyches to render endless pleasure. And so Man's greatest achievement, our freedom, will perish with us. How can this be something that a human being would welcome? How can someone collaborate not only in their own demise, but in the destruction of everything they claim to believe in? They call this progress and they label those of us who resist them Luddites, but if what they call progress ends in our extinction then I for one will be happy to heave a sabot in their loom.
IMPORTANT CLOTH :What the American Flag Stands For (Charlotte Aldebron, April 3, 2002, Common Dreams)
The American flag stands for the fact that cloth can be very important. It is against the law to let the flag touch the ground or to leave the flag flying when the weather is bad. The flag has to be treated with respect. You can tell just how important this cloth is because when you compare it to people, it gets much better treatment. Nobody cares if a homeless person touches the ground. A homeless person can lie all over the ground all night long without anyone picking him up, folding him neatly and sheltering him from the rain.
School children have to pledge loyalty to this piece of cloth every morning. No one has to pledge loyalty to justice and equality and human decency. No one has to promise that people will get a fair wage, or enough food to eat, or affordable medicine, or clean water, or air free of harmful chemicals. But we all have to promise to love a rectangle of red, white, and blue cloth.
Betsy Ross would be quite surprised to see how successful her creation has become. But Thomas Jefferson would be disappointed to see how little of the flag's real meaning remains.
(Charlotte Aldebron, 12, wrote this essay for a competition in her 6th grade English class. She attends Cunningham Middle School in Presque Isle, Maine. Comments may be sent to her mom, Jillian Aldebron: firstname.lastname@example.org)
I realize she's only twelve and her mother has probably brainwashed her, but you really have to wish you could magically transport her to Palestine, Kabul or Paris and let her see how good we--even the homeless among us--have it.
THE BIGOTRY THAT DARE SPEAK ITS NAME : HATRED OF THE RELIGIOUS :A Talk with John Ashcroft (Paul Greenburg, April 3, 2002, townhall.com)
I have my own theory about why John Ashcroft inspires such enmity. I think a good part of it is religious prejudice. The man is likely to break out in a hymn in the middle of a speech, he doesn't hide his convictions, he presides over morning prayers in his office (they're strictly voluntary), and he's one of those people who's likely to make a biblical reference right in the middle of a conversation. His critics can never know when he's going to have the bad taste to mention God, and the suspense puts them on edge.
His religiosity upsets John Ashcroft's critics. You can tell by the way they use the term Religious Right. They pronounce it like an anathema, the way an anti-Semite would say Jew.
There's something else his critics can't stand about John Ashcroft. He's smart. And he's a good lawyer. Nothing angers those accustomed to thinking of their politics as the only intelligent kind like finding an antagonist who thinks. They'd rather dismiss John Ashcroft as some kind of country bumpkin from Missouri (like Harry Truman?) rather than actually wrestle with his ideas. It's so much easier to condescend to him, to make up stories about his Puritanism, his felinophobia, his general scariness.
Recent events certainly indicate that he understood the World better than his critics when he said : "Islam is a religion in which God requires you to send your son to die for him. Christianity is a faith in which God sends his son to die for you."
NEW WORLD ORDER :Harder Than McKinley (E. J. Dionne Jr., April 2, 2002, washingtonpost.com)
The war on terror has often been appropriately analogized to the Cold War. But the new war, in fact, represents an even larger assertion of American power -- a quantum leap in American engagement more akin to the one that occurred on McKinley's watch. The Cold War, after all, had a very specific goal: to contain and, if possible, roll back the power of the Soviet Union. In the new struggle, the United States will find itself juggling many objectives at once.
Communism was an evil system built around a flawed idea. Terrorism is evil, too -- the president is right to use the word -- but it is a method, not an idea. That means that "antiterrorism" will always be a less coherent concept than "anticommunism." This explains why the administration is tied up in knots over how to respond to Palestinian terror against Israel. The administration's commitment to opposing terror conflicts with its interest in getting the Palestinians and Israelis to negotiate. The president and his diplomats are wary of taking too hard a line against the Palestinians, because their basic objective is to push the Israeli-Palestinian struggle off to the side. Then they can get on with the business of winning allies for a war against
But this begs the question: If what's happening in Israel isn't "terrorism," what is? Yet, if our goal, correctly, is a two-state solution, how can the United States square its refusal to negotiate with terrorists with its desire to push Israelis and Palestinians toward that end?
Because the balancing act his policy entails is so difficult, Bush has set himself a much harder challenge than McKinley did. That doesn't mean Bush's domestic political position is weaker. On the contrary, Democrats are even more tentative these days than William Jennings Bryan was.
But Bush is going much farther than McKinley ever did. He wants to reorder the world. Our political system is only beginning to absorb the implications of his ambition.
I wonder if this isn't partially wrong--it seems to me that terrorism is an idea, maybe the only one that these folks believe in any more. After all, they've been offered a state, but turned it down. Mightn't they have grown addicted to what started out as a tactic, so that by now, like heroin addicts in search of their next fix, the violence has become the only thing that matters in their lives.
GETTING THE STORY :Faith, Trust and War Place Bush Firmly on Israel's Side (ROBERT S. GREENBERGER and JEANNE CUMMINGS, April 3, 2002, Wall Street Journal)
Mr. Bush is bound to Israel by a strong religious faith molded by his convictions as a born-again Christian. In his autobiography, he describes a 1998 visit there as "an incredible experience." And times have changed markedly since the first President Bush's term, when many moderate Arab governments were expressing an eagerness for peace.
This is the kind of story we were talking about earlier in the week. Journalists who ignore or dismiss the President's religious beliefs are in real danger of missing the story.
SPARK OF INTEREST? :Phil Donahue Returns to TV on MSNBC (DAVID BAUDER, Apr 3, 2002, AP)
Veteran talk-show host Phil Donahue is returning to television with a nightly topical program on MSNBC, which hopes his hiring adds a spark of interest to a struggling network.
In a related story, MSNBC announced plans to hire Soupy Sales to host an edgy new kids show on Saturday mornings.
THE VERY OLD WORLD :Candidates skirt facts on crime in France (John Vinocur, International Herald Tribune, April 3, 2002)
The causes, in contrast, are regarded across the political spectrum as dangerous to discuss, with at least two of the central aspects embedded in zones of profound national taboo: a tacit legitimization of violence as one of French life's banalities, from nursing students blocking train tracks to striking airport workers setting tires aflame on runways; and the disproportionately large role, acknowledged by some social workers and criminologists, played by young men of Arab immigrant origin in the rise in crime and disorder.
Pushed hard, the politicians are drawn by the issues in directions they do not necessarily want to go. Some privately acknowledge that the nation is not prepared for a no-illusions discussion of how violent France has become, or how failed integration, a climate of racism, or disrespect for French law and values figure in the cause-effect relationship between insecurity and the country's community of 5 million to 8 million Arabs.
It is impossible to overstate how insignificant Europe is to our future. Declining birthrates, dependence on immigrant labor and the mutual resentment this will foster, bureaucratic central government, post-Christian...
Perhaps Geoffrey Hill will be remembered as its eulogist :
Wherein Wesley stood
up from his father's grave,
summoned familiar dust
for strange salvation:
whereto England rous'd,
ignorant, her inane
Midas-like hunger: smoke
a spectral people
raking among the ash;
its freedom a lost haul
of entailed riches.
ANY WAY THE WIND BLOWS :Addiction to Addition (Maureen Dowd, April 3, 2002, NY Times)
"[W]hile Clinton used polling to craft popular policies," Mr. Green points out, "Bush uses polling to spin unpopular ones - arguably a much more cynical undertaking." [...]
At least Mr. Clinton's impulse was democratic. He yearned to do what we wanted him to do - he was Sally-Field-desperate for us to really, really like him. Mr. Bush's impulse is autocratic. He wants to do what he (or Cheney & Rove) wants to do - and is desperate only to find a way to shove it down our throats. [...]
Mr. Bush used poll-dictated phrases to reduce alarm about his Social Security plan, talking about "retirement security" and "choice," as opposed to the Democrats' "bankrupt" and "risky."
Ms Dowd's point here is, typically, incoherent. She argues that it was more honorable for Bill Clinton to abandon his principles (yeah, I know, but let's play along) because they were unpopular than it is for George W. Bush to change his language in order to convince the public to adopt his principles. It is rare to find a columnist who is so openly willing to pimp for a lack of principle, but Ms Dowd appears comfortable in the role.
THE FENDER BENDER OF CIVILIZATIONS :The Hard Truth (Thomas L. Friedman, April 3, 2002, NY Times)
A terrible disaster is in the making in the Middle East. What Osama bin Laden failed to achieve on Sept. 11 is now being unleashed by the Israeli-Palestinian war in the West Bank: a clash of civilizations. In the wake of repeated suicide bombings, it is no surprise that the Israeli Army has gone on the offensive in the West Bank. Any other nation would have done the same. But Ariel Sharon's operation will succeed only if it is designed to make the Israeli-occupied territories safe for Israel to leave as soon as possible. Israel's goal must be a withdrawal from these areas captured in the 1967 war; otherwise it will never know a day's peace, and it will undermine every legitimate U.S. effort to fight terrorism around the globe.
What I fear, though, is that Mr. Sharon wants to get rid of Mr. Arafat in order to keep Israeli West Bank settlements, not to create the conditions for them to be withdrawn.
"The only solution is a new U.N. mandate for U.S. and NATO troops to supervise the gradual emergence of a Palestinian state ¯ after a phased Israeli withdrawal ¯ and then to control its borders," says the Middle East expert Stephen P. Cohen.
People say that U.S. troops there would be shot at like U.S. troops in Beirut. I disagree. U.S. troops that are the midwife of a Palestinian state
and supervise a return of Muslim sovereignty over the holy mosques in Jerusalem would be the key to solving all the contradictions of U.S. policy in the Middle East, not new targets.
So let's see if I have this straight : even Mr. Friedman now acknowledges (either seven months or thirty years or fourteen hundred years after the fact, depending on how you measure) that we are involved in a Clash of Civilizations. But Israel, which is a part of modern Western Civilization, should gradually cede control over the West Bank to Palestine, which is a part of the medieval Islamic Civilization with which we are fighting a twilight battle? And the Palestinians won't attack the troops involved in an American transitional force, even though America is obviously the leader of Western Civilization?
Clash of Civilizations? Mr. Friedman seems to think it's more like a glofified misunderstanding. Hard Truth? Mr. Friedman seeks to declare war and to beg for a truce, all in the space of one column. Sounds more like soft delusion to me.
The term "Clash of Civilizations" comes from the essay and book by Samuel P. Huntington, wherein he argues that this kind of clash will be an intractable feature of geopolitics for the forseeable future. Though Mr. Friedman has borrowed the muscular metaphor, he seems not to have comprehended Mr. Huntington's point at all.
April 2, 2002
UGLY TRUTHS :Strong Views on Ads Linking Drug Use to Terrorism (ALLISON NORTH JONES, April 2, 2002, NY Times)
"It's a colossal waste of money," Jane Marcus, a mother of two and member of the Parents and Teachers Association in Palo Alto, Calif., said of the advertisements. "The argument is fallacious to begin with and plays on people's fears — the two aren't connected," she said of the link between terror and drug abuse.
Ethan A. Nadelmann, executive director for the Drug Policy Alliance, which favors a strategy based more on treatment, said: "This is a shameless exploitation of the war on terror. The government is trying to bolster a failing war on drugs by linking it to the war on terrorism." His nonprofit group paid $8,000 to parody the ads in Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper.
Mr. Walters said that while there was no way to measure the effectiveness of the advertisements yet, reaction to the spots had been enough to persuade him to extend the campaign through the summer and to add several new advertisements.
The drug office used focus groups and consulted with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration to develop the advertisements. They are the most widely tested spots since the media campaign began in 1998, when Congress approved nearly $1 billion over five years for the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, Mr. Walters said.
There are plenty of rational arguments for abandoning the war on drugs and they've been made eloquently by even the likes of William F. Buckley Jr.. But to argue that drug money does not support terrorism is as vapid as arguing that buying bootleg liquor didn't help support Al Capone. And at the point where you're reduced to saying that drugs should be legal so it's not my fault the money goes to criminals and terrorists, you're just making an ass of yourself.
THE PAST AS PROLOGUE :The Boomerang Syndrome (NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, April 2, 2002, NY Times)
Avraham Burg, speaker of the Knesset, was quoted as saying in Haaretz: "Just because the position of the Palestinians is a stupid one,just because they cannot overcome terrorism and they fled the peace process in a violent manner, does that require us to enter this insane cycle?"
It's interesting that Mr. Kristof, an otherwise entirely pedestrian columnist, should have chosen this metaphor for his essay today, because one of the arguments that Thomas Cahill makes in his fine book The Gifts of the Jews : How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels is that the signal contribution of Judaism to mankind was to break us out of the cyclical view of history, adhered to by all of the other Middle Eastern religions of the time and by most Eastern religions even up until today, and create the idea of history as a forward progress. Until then, mankind had viewed history as an endlessly repeating circle of basically unchanging events. By abandoning this notion, Jews in effect created time, the idea that there had been a past, that this is the present and that there will be a future and that each is different than the other. This, Mr. Cahill argues, was a major part of the genius of Judaism.
Modern Jewry finds itself now stuck in a very different more malefic Middle Eastern cycle, this one of violence. It will require an equal genius to break out of the vicious round of strike and counterstrike, but one suspects they'll do so. I believe they'll have to start by being the strikers instead of the counterstrikers and by striking with massive and overwhelming force, in order to smash the cycle beyond Palestinian repair.
SPEAK FOR YOURSELF :Victor Davis Hanson makes his own case infinitely better than I did below : History Isn't on the Palestinians' Side : Arafat's strategy is suicidal in more ways than one. (Victor Davis Hanson, April 2, 2002, Wall Street Journal)
The Arab world warns of its martial prowess and deadly anger--as American flags burn, threats to kill us are issued, and "the street" shakes its collective fist. But we Americans remember 1967, when we gave almost no weapons to the Israelis--but the Russians supplied lots of sophisticated arms to the Arabs. In the Six Day War, the state radio networks of Syria, Egypt and Jordan boasted to the world that their triumphant militaries were nearing Tel Aviv even as their frightened elites pondered abandoning Damascus, Cairo and Amman. And we recall the vaunted Egyptian air force in 1967, the invincible Syrian jets over Lebanon, the Mother of All Battles--and the Republican Guard that proved about as fearsome as Xerxes' Immortals at Thermopylae.
A beleaguered Arafat now wildly works his Rolodex for support for his autocracy. But history answers cruelly that strongmen in their bunkers are as impotent as they are loquacious--and as likely to receive disdain as pity. Moammar Gadhafi was a different man after the American air strike proved his military worthless and his person no longer sacrosanct. The rhetoric of the Taliban in September promised death; in October they and their minions went silent. In wars against bombers and terrorists, the past teaches us that peace comes first through their defeat--not out of negotiations among supposedly well-meaning equals.
We all would prefer, and should strive for, peaceful relations with the Egyptians, the Jordanians, the Syrians--and all the other 20-something dictatorships, theocracies, and monarchies of the Middle East--as well as a state for the Palestinians. But the day is growing late; our patience is now exhausted; and sadly an hour of reckoning is nearing for all us all. The problem is, you see, that we know their history far better than they do.
It seems worthwhile recalling that Japan and Germany became liberal democratic allies only after we had brutally crushed them. One doubts that Palestine and Israel will ever be allies, but peace can probably only come after Israel demonstrates complete superiority and a willingness to apply it.
BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY :Wahhabis in the Old Dominion : What the federal raids in Northern Virginia uncovered. (Stephen Schwartz, 04/08/2002, Weekly Standard)
The [Saudi] kingdom pledged $400 million last year for the support of "martyrs' families," according to the Saudi Embassy website. At $5,300 per "martyr," that works out to about 75,000 martyrs, suggesting the Saudi princes anticipate a lot more suicide bombings than Israel has yet suffered.
The thought occurs--while listening to NPRistas talk about how these Palestinians become suicide bombers in part because their families get money--that one of the ways to deter the bombings is for Israel to execute the families of the bombers. Surely this would provide some disincentive, however slight, to counterbalance the Saudi and Iraqi blood money.
April 1, 2002
CUTTING ROOM FLOOR :The Brothers Judd are big Ed Driscoll fans. Mr. Driscoll wrote a very nice (most people say overly flattering) profile of us a couple months ago. He also has a terrific weblog. That said, we can't help thinking that Mr. Driscoll looks like something out of that dreadful Speilberg flick A. I. in this picture. On the other hand, his story that goes with it is very cool Defying Gravity: The Segway in Action (Edward B. Driscoll, April 2002, LiteWheels) :
...I watched Tobe Cohen, Segway's director of marketing roll past Doric columns, antique appearing chandeliers and marble floors into a modern looking conference room, seemingly magically balanced between the two parallel wheels of the Segway. He hopped off, and adjusted the height of the handlebars to better suit my arms. I hopped onto the 24-inch wide platform. Then Cohen took his hand off the unit. For a few seconds, the Segway bucked back and forth, as he said, "you're trying to balance on it, and it's trying to balance you. Just relax." I did. The rest was incredibly intuitive.
I was standing between the two wheels, balanced like I was a few antigravity inches off the ground. Cohen explained that if I leaned forward, the Segway would move forward. If I leaned backwards, the Segway would reverse. And he pointed out the switch on the left handlebar that could be flipped to turn the unit. He then let me ride the Segway through the halls, up ramps, on several surfaces, and even over his feet.
US OR THEM :Jack O'Toole (aka Political Professional) does not believe that a democracy (Israel) is capable of the brutality that will be required to contain a hostile civilian population (Palestine) : Dejected, Dispirited and Depressed (O'Toole File, April 01, 2002, Political Professional.com) :
Israel's military response to the unremitting terror war being waged against it, while entirely justified, won't succeed; democracies are simply incapable of the kind of sustained brutality required to subjugate a restive and thoroughly radicalized people. (What happens when sixteen-year-old Palestinian girls bent on martyrdom start throwing themselves under Israeli tanks? Does Israel really have the stomach to roll over ten of them? A hundred? A thousand?)
As much as it depresses me to say this, the Palestinians are right about one thing: Israel faces a choice between capitulation and ethnic cleansing, and because it will never choose the latter, it will ultimately be forced to accept the former.
Victor Davis Hansen's most recent book, Carnage and Culture, actually addresses this idea quite well and comes to precisely the opposite conclusion : democracies are quite capable of being significantly more ruthless and more efficiently ruthless than other societies.
There are a few reasons for this, but the most important is that democracies believe themselves to be precisely the kind of uniquely decent societies that Mr. O'Toole is describing, and this creates a heightened sense of righteous indignation and moral superiority during wartime. After all, Yasar Arafat knows that he's craven murdering scum, but Ariel Sharon both knows that Arafat is scum and that he, Sharon, is a righteous warrior defending the chosen people. The rhetoric of democracy requires us to pretend that Arafat is the scarier of the two, but in fact there is no man and no people so dangerous as those who know themselves to have the moral high ground--it makes them capable of virtually anything.
Now, it will I'm sure be said that the Palestinian people, at least those in the street, are equally certain that their cause is just, but here the superiority of the democracy comes into play. For it is simply true that no political-economic system in human history has devised more powerful or efficient means of killing people than have the liberal democracies of the West. We tend to dwell on the cruelty of the Hutu vs. the Tutsi or the Serb vs. the Croat and think to ourselves how much more civilized we are than they. But when you tote up the killing and destruction that has been accomplished by democracies it dwarfs all those minor little bloodlettings. In fact, man has never waged war more fiercely than when two democracies square off against one another. The American Civil War should have served as the canary in the coalmine, warning us of how horrific combat between democracies would be. But that lesson remains unlearned even after the almost insane slaughterfest of WWI and the quite astounding killing of civilians in WWII. Machine guns, dum dum bullets, planes, subs, bombs, atomic bombs, napalm, etc.. Our capitalist economies are so good at innovating and then cranking stuff out cheaply, we just excel at killing.
Before we assume that Israel is not capable of destroying Palestine and killing Palestinians in the hundreds of thousands, because it is a liberal democracy, we would do well to recall the relative ease with which we killed Japanese and Germans in the hundreds of thousands, firebombing both and nuking the former. Harry Truman was fond of recalling that he didn't even have any trouble sleeping after ordering the bombing of Hiroshima. Curtis LeMay couldn't understand why the bomb was needed since he could kill just as many with his firebombings and he even took to planning the raids during periods when wind conditions were favorable, that is when high winds would whip the fires into unstoppable holocausts. Both were decent men and democrats (small "d"), but when the time came they were prepared to kill the enemy in world historical numbers, and did.
Neither Germany nor Japan represented a serious threat to American national security, yet we pursued a policy of unconditional surrender and maximum devastation because we were morally outraged and because we had the technical capacity to do so. Israel today combines both of those qualities. It is a mistake to believe that there are limits beyond which she will not go, just because she is a democracy and a decent nation. What is being decided now is not whether Israel will continue to exist, but whether Israel will allow Palestine to continue to exist. And every suicide bombing tilts the scales a little further....
IT AIN'T THE WAR, FRANK :The Wimps of War (Frank Rich, March 30, 2002, NY Times)
Here's how bad things are for the Democrats. During the last town meeting of liberals that still convenes on network television — Hollywood's Oscar ceremony — no one, not even the tag team of Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford, had so much as a mildly critical word to say about George W. Bush. But Nathan Lane scored one of the night's few laughs when he saluted movie animators for "creating the illusion of life — something that was never achieved with Al Gore."
Such is the torpor of the Democrats these days that Mr. Gore's shaving of his beard is what passes for a galvanizing party event worthy of national polls (62 percent were pro-shave) and desperate '04 prognostication on CNN. Even the Democrats' rare legislative victory, the passage of the campaign finance bill, was robbed of its glory when the party chairman, Terry McAuliffe, almost simultaneously announced a record soft-money donation of $7 million from the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" mogul, not to mention a spring Apollo Theater fund-raiser at which Bill Clinton will be paired with Michael Jackson, fresh from his photo op at Liza Minnelli's wedding.
If the Democrats stand for anything in a time of rapidly expanding war, it's not clear what it is.
It is apparently the thesis of Mr. Rich's column that the absence of any coherent Democrat agenda is a function of their fear of President Bush's wartime popularity. That this notion is untenable should be evident to anyone who looks back at the last thirty years of our politics, because the last national Democrat to espouse liberal ideas in a race with a conservative Republican was Walter Mondale in 1984 and the last to win was LBJ in 1964. Since then--shattered by the civil rights struggle and Vietnam protests that tore their governing coalition apart and demoralized by the failure of their Great Society antipoverty programs--the Party has essentially presented itself as little more than a moderate version of Republicanism. There really is no Democratic agenda other than to slow down Republicans. That worked well when the senior Bush raised taxes or when Newt Gingrich mouthed off, but it's pretty useless against a popular president.
The Democrats decades long dearth of ideas can be seen in the fact that the only significant expansion of government they've even proposed in recent years was Bill Clinton's Health Care program. Meanwhile, on almost all other issues (except abortion--which is an aberration) Clinton ran to George Bush's right and as soon as it became clear how unpopular Clintoncare was with the American electorate, the administration dumped it overboard and never looked back. As Clinton himself said (as reported in Bob Woodward's The Agenda), he governed as an "Eisenhower Republican".
In fact, it seems fair to say that liberals have become the reactionaries of American politics, fighting rearguard battles merely to preserve the Social Welfare Net that they built up during their sixty years in power (1932-94), but devoid of any new ideas and terrified of reiterating the old ones because the public is so hostile to them. It is conservatives who are the activists today, seeking to roll back that same Social Welfare State and to reverse the sexual revolution. The conservative program may be retrograde, but it represents monumental change and it is driven by a coherent and consistent set of beliefs. Frank Rich
may just now be noticing that the Democrats are brain-dead, but they've been on life support for thirty years.
A TIME FOR CHOOSING :A false promise of peace (Steven Martinovich, April 1, 2002, Enter Stage Right)
There are clear differences between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The PA and Arafat depend on the continuing support of hard-line elements in the Palestinian community. By not acting forcefully against groups like Islamic Jihad and Hamas, they have tacitly given their approval for the terrorist attacks against civilians in Israel. The PA itself is an autocratic organization run by a man with an extensive Marxist past.
Israel, on the other hand, is a mature democratic and capitalist nation - the only one in the region - that generally respects the rights of its citizens. A moral nation, like Israel, which admittedly has some big faults, safeguards its citizen's rights. It has a right to its sovereignty, something that many in the Palestinian and wider Arab communities refuse to accept, and has the right to demand other nations respect that sovereignty. Logically, it has the right to defend its sovereignty.
As the Hamas statement after the Netanya attack illustrates, the Saudi peace plan strips Israel of that right and promises no assurance of a secure Israeli future. Agreeing to this proposal will be akin to waving a small scrap of paper in the air and proclaiming that the Jewish state will enjoy peace in our time.
Unfortunately, events in the Middle East are spinning out of control so quickly that the column you write today may not even be relevant tomorrow. The Saudi "Peace Plan" is already a dead letter, but these paragraphs from Steve Martinovich's most recent essay remain timely as ever.
OPENING DAY WISDOM FROM THE SCOOTER :
Field of Butterflies
If you don't get a little,
A few butterflies,
No matter what you do,
On the first day of anything,
You're not human
April 21, 1991
New York at Kansas City
Storm Davis pitching to Steve Sax
First inning, no outs, bases empty
(First batter, opening day)
For more check our review of O Holy Cow! : The Selected Verse of Phil Rizzuto (1993) (Phil Rizzuto 1917-) (edited by Tom Peyer and Hart Seely)
THE CRUELLEST MONTH :Ed Driscoll has a terrific post about Muggeridge's Law.
APARTHEID NATION :I'm sure other folks have noticed this, but it really just hit home with me this morning--on the Diane Rehm Show they were talking about how "of course" any peace deal would require rounding up the 200,000 Israeli settlers and moving them out of Palestine. So here's my question : Why?
Suppose that the Israelis were black, would we so blithely accept the notion that the Palestinians refuse to permit them to remain after they get statehood? And if the Palestinians plan on "cleansing" themselves of Jews when they get control, then why shouldn't Israel, which is in control now (kinda), cleanse Palestine of the Palestinians?
WHAT ARAFAT WOULD DESTROY :'Good neighbors' til the very end (David Bedein, March 31, 2002, Jewish World Review)
In January, and without warning, Moscow's Channel One filmed the Arab villages near us, expecting to hear stories about the "Israeli occupation" and tensions between the small Arab village and the 16 expanding Israeli Jewish settlements of Efrat and the Etzion Bloc. The Russian TV crew heard the opposite message --- only praise for the Jews there, and seething anger against Arafat and the "PLO occupation" of their fellow Palestinian Arab brethren in the Bethlehem region.
Family after family in these Arab villages told Russian TV that they were receiving the best medical treatment possible from their Jewish friends in Efrat, while their families in Bethlehem had to bribe officials just to get the basics of treatment from the PA. They also spoke with pride about the school we had built for them.
I remember a few years ago, one of the networks went and talked to Arabs in the Golan Heights and they were uniformly fearful of being returned to Syrian control. They preferred Israeli "occupation".