Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Rope of Sand

Distilled to its essence. That's Theodore Dalrymple in a nutshell. Bernard Chapin (AmSpec, 1/25) interviews Dalrymple and the subject is TD's current book, "In Praise of Prejudice." This is an example of distillation: "The veneer of non-judgmentalism must always be thin, because non-judgmentalism is virtually an impossibility. The desirability of non-judgmentalism is itself a judgment; indeed, it is hardly too much to say that life is judgment. In effect, non-judgmentalism is a rhetorical stick with which to beat aspects of the status quo which the non-judgmentalist does not like." (2/4, 8:03 am)

In an excellent 5-part interview this past week, Peter Robinson interviews Shelby Steele, on Steele's new book about Obama, "Bound Man." Here are the links to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5. (2/3, 10:56 am)

Paul Johnson (NRO, 2/1) reviews Jonah Goldberg's new book, "Liberal Fascism." I'm just about finished with the book myself. It's hard not to enjoy the book - love it in fact - but you can't escape noticing that if Jonah had written it with less deliberate provocation, he might even get a hearing on the left. As it is, he's earning only scorn from that side - and of course being called a "fascist." (2/3, 10:53am)

These two articles go back to earlier in the week just ended. I didn't have time to blog about them then, but I couldn't just let them go either. Jennifer Rubin (New York Observer, 1/29) and Vic Hanson (RCP, 1/31) pick up on the anti-McCain animus coming from some leading conservative pundits. Rush and Hewitt appear to be pulling out all the stops. OK, so McCain isn't a true conservative, we get their point. Rubin wonders whether this conservative base that all the commentators put so much stock in even exists. McCain's recent success, when you get free of Rush and Hewitt, might easily be explained by this. Here's her summation: "I suspect that rather than confess that Mr. McCain was not so bad to begin with, or that Republican voters as a whole are less ideologically rigorous than their core listeners and readers, they’ll suggest that the outcome was all due to their endorsees’ personal and tactical shortcomings." Hanson concludes his piece with this telling gem: "If Hillary Clinton does end up winning her party's nomination, November's vote may hinge on whether moderates and liberals are nauseated enough by the Clintons' brawling and character assassination to cross over and vote for a decorated Republican war hero - that is, if his own flag-waving party doesn't destroy him first." (2/3, 10:38am)
UPDATE: Hanson, in a blog posting at NRO's The Corner (2/3) sees McCain less as a maverick from true conservatism than as an extension of Reagan, Bush I and II. This is defined by pragmatism on taxes, amnesty in immigration, new federal programs, etc. (2/4, 7:33 am)

Vic Hanson (PJM, 2/1) is doing some post-mortem on presidential candidates. He gets off an awesome blast or two near the end, while observing the populism of certain candidates. He finds an analog to Edwards in John Kerry's "camouflage and mansion show." (That is a friggin' beaut of a construction.) He also wonders which of the current crop of populists has the most square footage under roof. And he concludes with a succinct observation about the billionaire populists: "All of our present liberalish billionaire populists who critique capitalism and want higher taxes—Soros, Buffet, Gates, Trump, etc.—beat the system years ago, once railed against government intrusion into markets and competition, and now, billions later, feel themselves exempt. So in Carnegie fashion, they sense before the twilight it’s time for a little magnanimity, one that will have absolutely no effect on their billion-dollar lifestyles." (2/3, 10:28 am)

Belmont (1/26) makes one of those "why didn't I think of that" observations when he notes that the biggest and baddest private military company in the world is not Blackwater, it's al Qaeda. Blackwater has become the bete noir of the left, but where is the elite criticism of al Qaeda? "Many have argued that private military companies are evil, even when they are performing acts contracted out by sovereign countries. But relatively few pundits have noticed that fundamentalist terrorism -- in fact terrorism in general -- is really private warfare waged by subnational groups against enemies.... Today, the state has gone from being a safeguard against private warfare to a shield behind which it can be waged. The ironical result has been the weakening of the nation-state system. It is no longer designed to take responsibility for warlike acts, but to absolve it. It no longer prevents private war but makes its conduct a routine. Someone should note that the world's largest private military company is not Blackwater, which is liable under American law. It is al-Qaeda, which is responsible to no law but itself." (1/27, 9:12 am)

Saturday, January 05, 2008

A Reasonable Leaning Toward Wrath

Peter Robinson has a 5-part interview with Norman Podhoretz (at NRO). The interview follows the arguments found in NP's book, "World War IV", but it concludes with a discussion of Iran - which the book didn't address - which coincides with a Podhoretz essay coming out in February's Commentary magazine. (1/20, 11:58)

Let's see if I have this straight. Liberals, overwhelmingly, accept the theory of AGW, and with it the Al Gore prescription for its mitigation. They say that the science is settled on this. But climate science is so poorly understood, the number of variables so high, that its being settled is a ways off at a minimum. Doesn't matter: the mathematical models used by the proponents "prove" the theory; only those in denial and oil company whores are left in the shrinking field of doubters. Yet in a universe where the variables are not only quantified but understood, and where the mathematical models have a decent track record of predicting outcomes, liberals refuse to recognize the forecasts: namely, that Social Security is headed for insolvency. I think this qualifies as inconsistency. Jerome Schmitt (American Thinker, 1/9/08) discusses this in more detail. (1/14, 7:52 am)

Belmont (1/12/08) notes that Petraeus and Crocker, for the U.S., and Iraqi representatives, for that side, are preparing to meet to discuss a long-term strategic partnership. It indirectly speaks to the increasing success that current US strategy is having. What happens in November, when possibly an anti-war Democrat is elected to the presidency? Interesting. "Continued success in Iraq has the effect of increasing the size of the pot that an incoming Democratic president must throw away in order to fulfill election promises to the antiwar base. It can be compared to a promise to abandon a business venture, which was easy enough to say for as long as it seemed in the red or marginal. But once it starts turning a profit -- and an increasingly large one -- fulfilling the promise becomes more and more costly. Abandoning a success may in fact secretly delight an antiwar candidate, if the objective is to inflict as large a defeat as possible for the US, but it will come at a political price so great it may cost the election. It would be like getting caught between Iraq and a hard place." (1/13, 9:45 am)

George Will (WaPo, 1/6) really made my day with his Sunday Washington Post column, called "Iowa's Histrionic Hucksters." He has some terrific blasts at two of the candidates in the aftermath of the Iowa caucuses. I'll just excerpt and sit back and grin: "He [Huckabee] and John Edwards, flaunting their histrionic humility in order to promote their curdled populism, hawked strikingly similar messages in Iowa, encouraging self-pity and economic hypochondria.... Huckabee says that "only one explanation" fits his Iowa success "and it's not a human one. It's the same power that helped a little boy with two fish and five loaves feed a crowd of 5,000 people." God so loves Huckabee's politics that He worked a Midwest miracle on his behalf? Should someone so delusional control nuclear weapons?... Although Huckabee and Edwards profess to loathe and vow to change Washington's culture, each would aggravate its toxicity. Each overflows with and wallows in the pugnacity of the self-righteous who discern contemptible motives behind all disagreements with them and who therefore think that opponents are enemies and differences are unsplittable." (1/7, 7:53 am)

Charles Krauthammer (RCP, 1/4/08) has a great piece on the condition of America's attempt to spread democracy abroad. It's not lookin' so good right now. But he starts out by reminding us that the idea that Benazir Bhutto was this great friend of democracy is royal sham. (Ralph Peters (NYP, 12/28) drove the same point home last week.) She represented feudalism and power. But as for the American experiment, the error was in ever imagining the forms it could take in other cultures would look anything like our Jeffersonian model. Seems we're learning the hard way. "These are hard days for democracy. That is not a reason for giving up on it. It is a reason for the prudent acceptance and nurturing of local variants, however imperfect.... For the spread of democracy today, we need to practice our own brand of syncretism and learn not to abandon the field when forced to settle for regional adaptations that fall short of the Jeffersonian ideal." (1/5, 8:10 am)

America seems to be prone to "great awakenings." Historians are in pretty fair agreement that our country has already had three. John Baden, writing for TCS (1/4/08), thinks we might just be in for a fourth. This would be the unification of secular Greens and Christians. The crusading nature of this coalition is beyond doubting. The World Council of Churches is lining up behind every green initiative that offers some kind of salvation, not least preventing climate change. "...Christian tradition believes that humans cannot "do whatever we want" with the earth. These groups may complement each other for modern secular environmentalism has become a religion; it's Calvinistic asceticism minus God.... All religions have a litany and the Greens have theirs. We are sinners who sully creation. Our materialism wrecks our planet. Things are bad and getting worse for (other) people want the wrong things. Damnation awaits and darkness is nigh. Repent and renounce now else the end is near. Global warming will ruin our lives and destroy creation.... Will coalitions of Greens and religious leaders united by global warming produce our Fourth Great Awakening? This has strong possibilities but the potential for mischief is huge. Good intentions and political power are easily abused by special interests." (1/5, 8:00 am)

City Journal has revamped its website, for the better. This is neither here nor there, but a visit there lets us know that the print magazine's Winter edition has been published - and so should be arriving in my mailbox soon (hooray). Theodore Dalrymple and other Manhattan Institute fellows regularly post short articles and obsevations in a sidebar on the website. TD's latest (1/3/08), called "Mind Forg'd Manacles", identifies one of the intellectual fads that has led so many people in otherwise prosperous societies to resign themselves to self-destruction. "What Habermas fails to recognize is that self-destruction—which he correctly implies has reached epidemic proportions among a segment of the population—grows out of attitudes to life, beliefs, and mentalities; it is not a mechanical response to a mechanical problem. And one of the beliefs that favors self-destruction is that no alternative to it is possible, because the world is so constituted, at least until the people’s saviors gain power, that one’s choices make no difference to the course of one’s life. This is precisely the belief that Habermas seeks to promote. But it is not true, at least in minimally open societies, as the success of various minorities demonstrates. Habermas and those who think like him are thus purveyors of Blake’s “mind forg’d manacles” that lead to so much misery in the midst of plenty." (1/5, 7:49 am)

Jonah Goldberg's new book, "Liberal Fascism" is due for release next week. It already has the lefty blogosphere in a state of rage. That's a typically severe overreaction because, as we learn in this interview of the author, the book is not saying that all liberals are fascists. Interestingly, Jonah looks at the true historical/political origins of concepts like fascism and totalitarianism; they originally meant something quite different than the distorted sense of them that we have today - thanks in large part to the left. This Glenn and Helen podcast is a lot of fun and very enlightening; the book is sure to be this and more. As Jonah points out, this is not an Ann Coulter book. Reading Jonah is always fun because of his wit and sarcasm; he gets off some nice zingers in this podcast interview. At about the 25:00 mark of the podcast the discussion moves to the current crop of presidential candidates. Hillary's "It takes a village" motif, even if not trumpeted today like it was in the 90s, is still a guide to her philosophy of governing; as such, she's a true totalitarian. Obama is riding a wave of success because he's selling a "cult of unity", which most people feel (and I mean feel as opposed to think) is the antidote to our current political polarization. Jonah traces this back to Rousseau; in fact he says our major political differences, between right and left, can be boiled down to Locke vs. Rousseau. I'm going long here. Listen here. Order Jonah's book here. (1/5, 7:38 am)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Positive Menace

T-E-R-R-I-F-I-C! The Robinson/Hanson interview continues (Part 5) with a look at the sad state of academia when it comes to the teaching of military history. Politics and war are not, as the enlightenment view would have it, archaic aberrations; they are with us for all time. When academia scants or disparages history and its teaching it is tantamount to pissing on the thousands of white crosses that fill up military cemeteries all over the globe. (12/14, 8:23 am)

Charles Krauthammer (RCP, 12/14) speaks for a lot of people, I would guess, when he laments the degree to which this presidential campaign is awash in religion. But he points out that whether liberal or conservative, this is anathema to our founding principles, forgetful of some basic principles, and annoying to boot. "This campaign is knee-deep in religion, and it's only going to get worse.... In this country, there is no special political standing that one derives from being a Christian leader like Mike Huckabee or a fervent believer like Mitt Romney. Just as there should be no disability or disqualification for political views that derive from religious sensibilities, whether the subject is civil rights or stem cells.... This is pretty elementary stuff. I haven't exactly invented hot water here. The very rehearsing of these arguments seems tiresome and redundant.... But apparently not in the campaign of 2008. It's two centuries since the passage of the First Amendment and our presidential candidates still cannot distinguish establishment from free exercise." (12/14, 7:54 am)

Vic Hanson has a bunch of interesting thoughts at his PJM blog (12/13). At the end of the post he describes his greeting returning Marines recently; they were returning from their posting in Haditha, and they were the group Murtha had slandered as having murdered in cold blood. Hanson concludes: "In the end the rantings of a Sean Penn, Dick Durbin, Moveon.org, Tim Robbins, Harry Reid, Ted Kennedy and so on become just a blur, a sad reflection of some very unhappy maladjusted people of influence who have attacked the very military who protects them for either partisan advantage or some twisted sort of psychological penance." (12/14, 7:41 am)

Lee Harris (TCS, 12/12), the "philosopher of 9/11", writes a very good piece on the idea of "blowback." This notion, a favorite club for leftists and pacifists to beat Bush over the head with, is widely thought to instruct us that because our foreign policy leads to negative consequences, we ought to refrain from doing anything beyond our shores. It has a libertarian pedigree and it is congenial to do-nothings everywhere. The problem is that bad things happen to good people too; all human action produces unintended consequences; we're damned if we do and damned if we don't. "Mere good intentions [on which many liberals seem to pin their hopes] are not spared from yielding bad consequences, either in domestic or foreign affairs." (12/13, 8:42 am)

Part 4 (of 5) of the Robinson/Hanson interview. Will we bomb Iran? (12/13, 8:28 am)

It's kind of amazing to watch conservative pundits piling on Huckabee right now. I mean he's getting absolutely hammered. Largely deserving, of course, but still something to see. Examples: one week ago today Mark Steyn guest-hosted Hugh Hewitt's radio show; in the second hour he talked with Rich Lowry and then Jonah Goldberg, about Republican presidential politics. Huckabee is just being taken out and shot by these guys. A special bonus to this radio hour hosted by Steyn is when James Lileks joins him to talk about Christmas music. This is hilarious. Also, an Insty reader sees something odd about Huckabee. (12/13, 8:08 am)

Following some Insty links should be part of everyone's morning. Today, within two clicks are these gem lines. Mocking Eric Alterman of Media Matters, who seems to still be complaining about the beating Dan Rather took over those forged documents, Confederate Yankee, in a nice inversion of the oft-heard boast of lefty sophisticates, quips "The community-based reality. Don't leave ours without it." Beneath this short CY post, one of his commenters, ex-military and long-time computer expert, says this of Rather's attempt to sink Bush in the 2004 campaign: "Those Rather documents could not have been worse forgeries if they had been done with pink crayon on a paper bag." That's a beaut! (12/13, 7:57 am)

Part 3 (of 5) of the Robinson/Hanson interview. Everyone wants our troop presence in Iraq to be reduced; 160,000 is universally recognized as unsustainable. But as a Saudi sheik told Hanson, "what's the matter, is food too expensive here; is it cheaper to keep your troops in Kansas; where are you going to find a better place to shoot and try out your tactics? Why not stay for 3 or 4 years?" (12/12, 8:07 am)

"The first S.O.B. that tries to kill you, we're going to take care of him." That's Victor Davis Hanson making the point that no political or diplomatic solutions exist without there first being a military one. This is from the excellent second part (of 5) of a video interview. Double extra special bonus points for comments on Grant, Sherman and Patton! (Part 1 linked below.) (12/11, 8:14 am)

Christopher Hitchens (Slate, 12/10) argues that the spooks at CIA are a menace and have been openly undermining the Administration for years. The latest NIE is a fabulous misreading of actual developments in Iran. "It [Iran] has the desire to acquire the weaponry, it retains the means to do so, and it has been caught lying and cheating about the process.... To say that Iran has "stopped" rather than paused its program is to offer an opinion, not to present a finding.... Why, then, have our intelligence agencies helped to give the lying Iranian theocracy the appearance of a clean bill, while simultaneously and publicly (and with barely concealed relish) embarrassing the president and crippling his policy? It is not just a hypothetical strike on Iran that is rendered near-impossible by this estimate, but also the likelihood of any concerted diplomatic or economic pressure, as well. The policy of getting the United Nations to adopt sanctions on the regime, which was about to garner the crucial votes, can now be regarded as clinically dead. A fine day's work by those who claim to guard us while we sleep." [Italics mine.] (12/11, 7:39 am)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I Like My Idiots Where I Can See Them

First of five. Peter Robinson interviews Victor Davis Hanson (NRO) in a video format. Both are Hoover scholars. I'll link these as the next four parts become available. (12/10, 8:07 am)

It's hard to look at some of these developments as anything but a grand shake-down of Uncle Sam. I'm thinking of the UN conference on climate change, taking place in Bali. Here tiny island nations and tinpot dictators can pronounce that they are suffering or will suffer economic hardship (and so of course deserve recompense) because the US emits too much CO2. Part of the reason this idea has become de rigueur is probably "availability bias" (a term usefully introduced by Holman Jenkins in a recent WSJ piece, but given a fuller definition at Wikipedia). For example it's all too easy to imagine the borderlessness of a gas; ergo the largest emitter of that gas (never mind that on a per dollar of GDP basis the picture is radically altered) must be at fault for the alleged ills that stem from this gas. In other cases it's just the cynical use of an easy target for one's own political advantage. For example, China. Belmont (12/7) sums this up nicely. "Why have things come to the point where the most stable and prosperous democracies in history must vie for the approval and acclamation of the Chinese bureaucrats and self-appointed nongovernment organization inspectors? It is in part because Western "intellectuals" who should know better have submitted the moral judgment of the relative best to the absolute worst." (12/8, 9:10 am)

Leave it to Lee Harris (TCS, 12/7) to see a side of Romney's speech that was missed by other commenters. (Jeez, this makes three posts this morning on this damned thing?!) "[I]t is always dangerous to say what should go without saying, because it makes people wonder why you felt the need to say it. Is the Mormon church itching to run the White House, and does Romney need to stand firm against them?... The Mormon church is not Romney's problem; it is Romney's own personal religiosity. On the one hand, Romney is too religious for those who don't like religion in public life—a fact that alienates him from those who could care less about a candidate's religion, so long as the candidate doesn't much care about it himself. On the other hand, Romney offends precisely those Christian evangelicals who agree with him most on the importance of religion in our civic life, many of whom would be his natural supporters if only he was a "real" Christian like them, and not a Mormon instead." (12/7, 8:26 am)


Jonah Goldberg (NRO, 12/7) observes that it's a good thing that Americans tend not to judge a person based on their theology, but on their actions. "I have liberal Jewish friends who are sometimes flummoxed as to how I could hang out, ideologically or personally, with “Christian fundamentalists.” My short answer is: Have you ever met any? I may not want some of them planning my next trip to Vegas, but the ones I’ve met couldn’t be nicer or more polite." Well said. (12/7, 8:15 am)

Charles Krauthammer (RCP, 12/7) puts the wood to Mike Huckabee's straddle on religion in his Iowa campaign. It forced Romney to deliver his "faith speech" yesterday. "And by Huckabee's own logic, since he is not running for head of a theological college, what is he doing proclaiming himself a "Christian leader" in an ad promoting himself for president?... Answer: Having the issue every which way. Seeming to take the high road of tolerance by refusing to declare Mormonism a cult, indeed declaring himself above the issue -- yet clearly playing to that prejudice by leaving the question ambiguous, while making sure everyone knows that he, for one, is a "Christian leader."" (12/7, 8:06 am)

Belmont (12/2) notes that when things go wrong in socialist countries, they "just happen." When things go wrong in the US, it's capitalism, US imperialism, or Halliburton. "Every bad thing in Chile might be the fault of capitalism; every misdeed in 1950s Cuba can be laid at the feet of US imperialism; and hurricanes in America are provably caused by Halliburton. But in socialist wrecks -- and every single socialist country on earth is a wreck without exception -- things "just happen"... the horrors that have descended on Zimbabwe, North Korea and Cuba are likened to natural disasters in the way Hurricane Katrina never could have become. It becomes the "humanitarian duty" of the world, most particularly the US taxpayer, to bail them out. Any suggestion to let socialism lie in its own bed is met with indignation at the vileness of "using food as a weapon"." (12/3, 7:26 am)

Shrink Wrapped (11/28) thinks the new and expanded definition of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which is about to be enshrined in the newest edition of the psychiatric profession's central diagnostic text, is going overboard. The new definition allows that a whole host of events that don't belong in the same universe as the trauma associated with war could earn a "sufferer" the PTSD diagnosis - with all the benefits that flow from that. Shrink identifies the motivation behind this: "Too much of modern Psychiatry lends itself to misuse by those who understand Psychiatric diagnoses as means to collectivize responsibility. If anyone with symptoms resembling PTSD has been made ill, by definition, by an external event, it opens the door for the kind of responsibility avoidance made popular by the promoters of collectivism, identity poultices, and an oppressor-victim schematization of society." [Emphasis mine.] (11/29, 8:46 am)

Victor Davis Hanson (Pajamas Media blog, 11/28) has a nice round-up of stories, thoughts, and observations. Lunch with Rummy; Clintonism; Left wing Jews. (11/29, 8:27 am)

Michael Fumento (AmSpec, 11/27), who wrote a book called "The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS", notes the UN's latest come-down on the size of the AIDS "epidemic." This has alarmists a tad defensive. Geneva's International AIDS Society issued a statement in defense of its alarmism, and pointed to the "fact" that due to its vigilance AIDS prevention and treatment over a quarter of a century "represented one of the great successes of medical science." Fumento finds a gaping hole in this: "Save for the efforts of groups like theirs their awful predictions would have come true. That echoes the explanation U.S. AIDS alarmists give about why their beloved heterosexual AIDS epidemic never arrived, notwithstanding that they were insistent for years that it already had arrived." (11/27, 8:29 am)

I'd like to take credit for that great line about idiots being out in the open, but I can't. It comes from a commenter in a Belmont post (11/26) on free speech. (11/27, 8:21 am)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Knaves to Vend, Fools to Gulp

Caught again! Charles Krauthammer (RCP, 11/23) finds another gaping crack in one of the current criticisms of progress in Iraq, namely that while the violence may be somewhat quelled, there is no political progress out of the central government. Take it away Charles: "Do the critics forget their own arguments about the irrelevance of formal political benchmarks? The transfer of power in 2004. The two elections in 2005. The ratification of the constitution. Those were all supposed to be turning points to pacify the country and bring stability -- all blown to smithereens by the Samarra bombing in February 2006, which precipitated an orgy of sectarian violence and a descent into civil war.... So, just as we have learned this hard lesson of the disconnect between political benchmarks and real stability, the critics now claim the reverse -- that benchmarks are what really count."
N.B.- Even though this is a week old now, it's still timely and it's still Charles. Hugh interviews him last Friday; there's some terrific stuff in this approx. 10 minutes. (11/23, 8:14 am)

B-R-U-T-A-L. But deliciously so. Bob Tyrrell (AmSpec, 11/21) comments on John Kerry's non-response to a challenge Boone Pickens made: that anyone who can prove that the Swift Boat Vets lied - about anything - in their famous ads about Kerry in the 2004 election will receive $1 million from Pickens. Tyrrell is just devastating: "The ads were produced to expose the braggart Kerry's incautious claims about his service during the Vietnam War -- that would be the war Kerry participated in briefly before coming home and traducing his fellow comrades in arms with vicious lies and distortions before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. Remember his more recent claim that he supported our war in Iraq before he opposed it? Inconstancy is in his DNA.... Both men are very rich. Pickens made his fortune by years of brilliant investments. He is one of the world's leading authorities on oil. Kerry made his fortune by marrying it, twice -- most recently to a woman who made her fortune similarly, through marriage." (11/21, 9:02 am)

James Bowman (AmSpec, 11/21) swoops in for a nice rant on the damage wrought in the underclass by egalitarian doctrines imposed by pampered elites. Sound familiar? It ought to, since Bowman's jumping-off point is Daniels/Dalrymple. If D/D's frontal attack of moral precision and gallows humor can't carry the skeptic, maybe Bowman's cavalry raid on the flank will soften him up: "In other words, a social problem exists because something that has never existed still doesn't exist -- and it occurs to no one what a lunatic thing this is to say. This is the power of utopian thinking which, drug like, teaches us to be happy in our misery since the only thing that could alleviate it is an impossible state of perfection.... If such an insane ideology had prevailed in centuries past, the good things of the world would never have come into existence to make the utopians think they should be equally distributed. Now, the remoteness of the prospect of their being equally distributed serves as an excuse for those who say that they should not exist. What kind of moral and intellectual poverty does it take to believe this?... You have to work hard to rid yourself of common sense in order to believe such stuff." (11/21, 8:50 am)

In a WSJ editorial (11/20/07) we learn that the Kleiner Perkins VC firm has some pretty heavy bets in the alternative energy field. Not one has yielded an exit. In a move that speaks volumes, KP has taken Al Gore on as a partner. Because Gore is an expert on alternative energies and will be able to hurry some of KP's investments along to market? Not exactly. The better fit is that Gore can help keep the spigot from Washington open. "Which leads us to suspect that maybe Mr. Gore has been hired by Kleiner Perkins for more than his technological knowhow, investment acumen, or global vision. His new partners may have hired him for the more prosaic task of getting 60 Senate votes to keep those taxpayer greenbacks coming." (11/20, 8:33 am)

Christopher Hitchens (Slate, 11/19/07) wraps up a column on the signs of progress in Iraq: "I am not at all certain that any of this apparently good news is really genuine or will be really lasting. However, I am quite sure both that it could be true and that it would be wonderful if it were to be true. What worries me about the reaction of liberals and Democrats is not the skepticism, which is pardonable, but the dank and sinister impression they give that the worse the tidings, the better they would be pleased. The latter mentality isn't pardonable and ought not to be pardoned, either." (11/20, 8:21 am)

Roger Kimball (11/18/07) delivers a killing indictment of affirmative action and multiculturalism. The piece is a little long, but it works. A clip: "The multicultural passion for hyphenation is not simply a fondness for syntactical novelty. It also bespeaks a commitment to the centrifugal force of anti-American tribalism. The division marked by the hyphen in African-American (say) denotes a political stand. It goes hand-in-hand with other items on the index of liberal desiderata—the redistributive impulse behind efforts at “affirmative action,” for example. Affirmative action was undertaken in the name of equality. But, as always seems to happen, it soon fell prey to the Orwellian logic from which the principle that “All animals are equal” gives birth to the transformative codicil: “but some animals are more equal than others.”" (11/19, 8:12 am)

Here's a roundup of some very good podcasts that have aired recently.
1) Dennis Prager (11/4) spends a fascinating radio hour (:35) with Clarence Thomas, on Thomas' new memoir "My Grandfather's Son."
2) Dennis Prager (11/7) interviews John Bolton on his new book, "Surrender Is Not An Option."
3) Hugh Hewitt (11/6) catches up with Lawrence Wright, author of last year's terrific "The Looming Tower." Few people know Al Qaeda as well as Wright, and in this interview we get caught up on AQ around the world. (11/17, 12:28 pm)

Insty (11/16/07) links to a Fox News story on the release by the Congressional Research Service of US military casualty numbers. I had always suspected that if you took into account the accidental deaths and injuries during peace time, the Iraq War's casualty figures would look fairly tame. After all, the business of training and preparing to fight - the stuff militaries are supposed to do in peace time - isn't exactly like dropping into the post office to pick up your mail. But the numbers from the 2005-6 period (with two hot conflicts going) are better than 1980-81, when we had a pretty small presence in the Middle East. (11/16, 7:48 am)

Friday, November 02, 2007

Heavy Medal

Peter Berkowitz (WSJ, 11/14/07) has a nice piece on Bush hatred. "In short, Bush hatred is not a rational response to actual Bush perfidy. Rather, Bush hatred compels its progressive victims--who pride themselves on their sophistication and sensitivity to nuance--to reduce complicated events and multilayered issues to simple matters of good and evil. Like all hatred in politics, Bush hatred blinds to the other sides of the argument, and constrains the hater to see a monster instead of a political opponent." (11/14, 8:28 am)

This story doesn't really rise to the level of world-historical importance, but it's kind of amusing just the same; and it occurred in Portland. Blogger Michael Totten's (Totten is one of the two premier embedded milbloggers in Iraq, and he hails from Portland) partner writes about being threatened by a gunman in his Portland home. Patrick Lasswell had apparently been lukewarm on the question of gun rights, but this incident seems to have caused him to reconsider. He's got a certain flair in his writing: "[A]s the lunatic passed twenty yards from my position it occurred to me how very much I appreciate owning rifles, and how very, very far away they were at the moment. Although I also own pistols, for a shotgun armed assailant in the night, the accuracy and stopping power of a rifle spoke to me with urgent clarity.... While running around in my PJ's armed exclusively with a flashlight, telephone, and civic virtue, my libertarian interest in keeping the police from having military weapons died of exposure.... The notion that patrol cars might have AR-15 rifles onboard seemed prudent, not an infringement. All apologies to Glenn Reynolds, but I wouldn't choose to face deranged shotgun toting citizens armed only with a pistol, why should the cops? Afterwards, I considered the comforting weight of my Navy Reserve unit's sweet shooting M240 machine guns..." (11/14, 7:54 am)

Belmont (11/8/07) has an interesting post on the differing perspectives of the situation in Iraq. A NYT story states that AQI has been routed from Baghdad; a blogger at Long Wars Journal analyzes the same fact with a series of bullet points. Wretchard turns logician (he can do this well) and examines events and the direction of causality. Let's get the horse before the cart is his dictum here. Lefty bloggers have been making hay by arguing against the "grain", for example by saying that the surge has been successful only because Muqtada al Sadr stood down, and because there's no one left to slaughter (they're either dead or are refugees). So the author at Long Wars write in to the comments section and he and Wretchard have a bit of a dialog over the direction and causalities of events. This is interesting by itself, even if it fatigues the reader (as some of this hair-splitting tends to do). But further down in the comments Wretchard rescues the entire thread with one of his patented striking analyses: "My belief is that the antiwar crowd know perfectly well that the Surge matters. And whatever they may say in public, they know down deep that Mookie didn't turn on the sunshine. For that precise reason the Surge is perceived as a danger because it might encourage the US to go after Iran once Iraq is consolidated. Therefore withdrawing from Iraq ASAP is equivalent to reducing any military option viz Iran to zero. The antiwar crowd fully understand the potency of the Surge and are anxious, for that very reason, to put paid to it. In this way, America will be "discouraged" from any further foolish moves and the cause of peace will be advanced." (11/9, 8:15 am)

It looks like it'll be pretty much impossible today to avoid "the picture" and commentary on it. I refer to the photo taken by Michael Yon, of a couple of men (apparently Muslim and Christian) re-installing a cross on top of a Christian church in Baghdad. No doubt it's a great picture, and it will move a lot of people. If the source were almost anyone besides Yon, I'd harbor some doubts about the setting and meaning. But the commentary on this thing is already a bit like people-watching in an airport. Insty has a round-up of links (plus the photo itself. Belmont compares it with the iconographic photo from Iwo Jima. But the snark is everywhere. A comment below the Belmont post is indicative if a bit heavy-handed: "A symbolic gesture? A feel-good moment? A prize for photography? or a sentimental tear-drop?... Naturally the media ignored the context and got carried away with the emotion [of the Iwo Jima photo], rather like you guys making goo-goo eyes at this vastly inferior photo." Time will tell. (11/8, 7:49 am)

If you feel like Theodore Dalrymple's new book "In Praise of Prejudice" ends too quickly, you'll be heartened by a little piece he posted at the City Journal website (11/6/07). He examines the 4-year prison term of a pop star murderer in France back in 2003. After an evaluation of the arguments for and against a stronger sentence in this particular case, the bracing Dalrymple of "Prejudice" reappears to make the very fine but not obvious point that the damage this short sentencing does is not in its failure to deter future murders, but rather to the thousands of lesser crimes that in light of this lenient sentence can't be properly punished. "Leniency for the few, most serious crimes, then, entails leniency for the less serious but more numerous crimes that envenom and brutalize the lives of the least privileged and most vulnerable members of Western societies. Punishment is not psychotherapy; it would not have been unjust to sentence Cantat to 20 years or longer in prison. Such a term would have made the repression of other crimes much easier. A mere four years makes it almost impossible." (11/7, 8:15 am)

Belmont (11/5/07) looks at the attempt by a French NGO (called Zoe's Arc) to smuggle/kidnap over 100 Chadian children out of their wartorn country and back to Europe. Was this an expression of real concern for the welfare of the children? It may be doubted: the Zoe's Arc people apparently poured dark liquid over some of the kids to make it appear (for the inevitable cameras) that they were blood-soaked. "Towering self-righteousness" is the more likely explanation. Belmont's (classic) peroration: "It was primarily about symbols. I think it was the compulsion to moral exhibitionism that consciously or unconciously drove the project forward. Where in ages past the pious were content wear sackcloth and ashes as tokens of their inner state, today's do-gooders are a little fancier. Today public piety consists of being seen at the right places, going with the best people and wearing the right symbols. The Peacemakers in Iraq in their orange uniforms running interference for terrorists and the Noe's Ark people with the white, UN-style vehicles saving the African children each wore the livery of their sacerdotal superiority. They might say it was about the children, but maybe it was really about them." (11/6, 8:12 am)

Dennis Prager (podcast, 10/26/07) recently spoke at UCSB, defending the use of the term "Islamofascism." As we know the Left has taken to tarring anyone who uses this term racist and Islamophobic. But of course that is a lie. One of the sterling points Dennis makes in the podcast - and he makes a ton of them - is that the shoe is more likely on the other foot. In other words, it is those who object to the term that are failing to distinguish between Islam and the people who murder in its name. The person who uses this term is actually making the distinction; those who would quash its use are in effect saying that there is no bad Islam and good Islam - there is only Islam. Spend 35 minutes and listen to the terrific debunking Prager does of so many of the tics and talking points that the Left falls back on; and beyond that his critique of the anti-intellectualism of the University. This is D-E-V-A-S-T-A-T-I-N-G! Also don't miss his column from this week on this topic. (11/2, 1:35 pm)

Shrink Wrapped (11/2/07) coins a term, "anthetic" (operational definition: dead man walking), to describe the essentially pacifist foreign policy someone like Barak Obama would bring if he were elected. This school of thought judges that Iran's destructive role in Iraq, for example, is merely a response to US aggression. (This argument, when extended, leads to the fatuous conclusion that if we simply pull out of the region things will calm down.) Obama says that we could go right back in if genocide were to follow our departure from Iraq. Shrink doubts there would be much support for that, since the MSM would display its usual concern for third world murder. "Unless deaths of Muslims and dark-skinned "others" can be attributed to Americans or Israelis, such deaths do not count in the international MSM. Contrast the (relative, not complete) silence of the MSM in regards to the genocidal behavior of Robert Mugabe, or the paucity of news accounts of Palestinian on Palestinian violence (not to mention he near silence on Palestinian on Israeli violence) to recognize that Iraqi on Iraqi violence in the absence of American oppressors to blame will disappear from the MSM radar.... A nation of pacifists is a nation of Zombies, pretending to be men, going through the motions, but defeated and awaiting subjugation." (11/2, 8:57 am)

Gabe Schoenfeld (Commentary blog, 11/2/07) looks at the CIA Commendation Medal that was awarded to Michael Scheuer, and which MS took great pains to point out (in a 2005 letter to Commentary) was awarded because of string of accomplishments he had while at the CIA in the 90s. It appears, however, that most if not all of these accomplishments - and in particular the biggie, supplying the information that led to the federal indictment of Bin Laden - occurred after his medal had been awarded. In the case of the Bin Laden indictment, three years after the medal award. Oops. (11/2, 7:57 am)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Gray Thickets

Here's a very interesting hour of radio (35 minutes actual listening) by Hugh Hewitt (10/30/07). First he interviews Barry Rubin, author of a new book called "The Truth About Syria." Rubin is in Israel and is a clear-eyed observer of Arab/Palestinian modus operandi. Then Yoni the Blogger (Hugh's pal and former IDF sniper, now dual citizen living and blogging in Seattle; he's always hot under the collar at the weakness of Israeli politicians and the low-down nastiness of Arabs and Palestinians). And then Hugh interviews Gabe Schoenfeld, editor of Commentary, and author of a new single-voice blog at the Commentary website. All good stuff. (11/1, 8:09 am)

Shrink Wrapped (10/26/07) looks capital-N Narcissism. That baby boomers (especially those left of center) manifest so many of the symptoms is a well-made point in his post. One application of his theory explains why people on the left won't take a stand against the Islamist threat. "[T]he Liberal Narcissist sees the dark skinned other as, essentially, a child. It is not so much that they cannot make judgments of other cultures, though that is the manifest content of their theories of multiculturalism, but that they see the child/other as authentically seeking to gratify primitive, ie infantile, desires. To thwart such desires is, in this world view, tantamount to child abuse. Children cannot be held to adult standards of responsibility and neither can other (primitive/childish) cultures.... Modern liberalism maintains its victim class as victims; without victims there can be no liberals. Without victims to champion, the liberals would lose an important source of self-esteem, the good feeling they gain from supporting the poor victims (as opposed to actually doing much to help the victims abandon their victimhood and become fully functioning adults.)" Shrink's posts usually have really interesting comment sections; this one is on exception, so be sure to read through them. (10/28, 11:17 am)

Mark Steyn (OC Register, 10/28/07) is hitting on all cylinders in this column, but the strongest point he makes is that for people younger than 50 (it might be better to expand this to 55) the Vietnam quagmire mentality isn't really about Vietnam, it's about the Vietnam movies of the 70s and 80s, or as Steyn brilliantly puts it "The Full Metal Deer Apocalypse."(10/28, 10:36 am)

"Gauzy idol worship" is what Charles Krauthammer (RCP, 10/27/07) calls all the braying among conservatives that they have no Ronald Reagan in 2008. Not only is this idolizing an imperfect Reagan, but it overlooks a pretty good field in its own right. Especially short-sighted, in my opinion, is the religious right's desire to chuck Giuliani over the side because he doesn't toe the line on abortion. Yet Giuliani has pledged to appoint "strict constructionist" judges in the mold of Roberts and Thomas; and everyone should know the only way a president can have any influence on abortion as an institution is through the judges he appoints. I think these people could stand to lighten up a bit. (10/26, 9:02 am)

Richard Fernandez, better known as Wretchard, author of The Belmont Club, as been doing some writing for the Pajamas Media website. In a recent piece (10/24/07) he takes a look at the idea, popular these days, that because Al Qaeda is a "networked insurgency", it can't really be defeated. (The natural conclusion of this line of thinking (it's more like a tautology: start with the conclusion you want, arrange the evidence accordingly) is that the US is wasting itself in trying to defeat AQ.) He cites a contributor at the blog Winds of Change, who is also looking critically at the premises of networked insurgency "invincibility." Fernandez makes some good points, and seems to be saying in effect "let's keep our heads here." (10/26, 8:47 am)

It's when you read attacks like the one Victor Davis Hanson describes here (PJM, 10/25/07) that you are reminded - again - that this kind of left-wingery is something like a mental disease. (10/26, 8:28 am)

What's your reaction when you read a line like this?: "THE PROBLEM IS NOT WITH THE PEOPLE THAT STARTED THIS. THE PROBLEM'S WITH US." One might be, "jeez, doesn't the person who uttered that line realize how stupid it sounds?" (Just for the record that line is Robert Redford's, and it's taken from a trailer to his new movie. I picked it up here.) Another winning example from this same school of thinking is something the U.S. Congressman from Oregon, Earl Blumenauer, recently said about the fires in southern California. He said in one breath that the fires themselves were so obviously the product of Bush's refusal to do anything about global warming; and in the next breath that the southern California area is historically prone to these devastating wildfires driven by Santa Ana winds. Maybe these guys have just gotten lazy, with a pliant echo-chamber media that they know will let comments like these go unquestioned. (10/26, 8:15 am)

Selwyn Duke (American Thinker, 10/25/07) sounds like a blend of Lee Harris and Theodore Dalrymple in this piece about the "folly" of trying to implant democracy in the Middle East. He thinks it's essentially a piece of political correctness to believe that this form of government will stick in a land where the character and virtues that are its prerequisites are almost totally absent. It's PC because as a culture we've been taught to believe that where people live under tyranny it's only because of a twist of fate - not, in other words, because they lack the basic civic ingredients. He quotes Ben Franklin to good effect on this point. But Duke can already hear the naysayers to his thesis: he is paternalistic and a chauvinist, etc. "Paternalistic? Maybe. A justification for imperialism? In certain cases perhaps, but it doesn't matter. A truth doesn't cease to be a truth simply because it's placed in the service of deceit. Just as people vary individually in terms of spiritual and moral development, so do they collectively. The ancient Aztecs were not the ancient Athenians, the Carthaginians were not the Romans, and the Iraqis are not us. Besides, paternalism is far safer than political correctness.... Speaking of the latter, President Bush has said that all people want freedom. That's nice. How idealistic. Technically, though, Bush is correct: All people do want freedom. What's overlooked is that wanting and being able to acquire are very different things." (10/25, 8:42 am)

Victor Davis Hanson (PJM blog, 10/20/07) isn't admitting it, but the pain from his recent bout of stones appears to be getting to him. You don't often hear him loosing a polemical blast like he does in this post, so I think he's just a little bit pissed off. The post is none the weaker for it though, as he demonstrates in this little salvo on elite liberalism: "....hating George Bush, or assuming that Western industrial rapacity is heating up the planet for profits, or that Iraq is a war for Halliburton is all akin to having oak floors, leather furniture, a stainless steel, granite kitchen, a glass of white wine after work at a fern bar, or driving a Prius to campus—manifest symbols of taste, erudition, and culture. Championing social causes at a distance also provides the upscale a sort of psychological penance: e.g., something like ‘I wouldn’t dare live or tutor in East Palo Alto, but will play the radical at Stanford’s picturesque campus as spiritual recompense.’" (10/23, 8:17 am)

What's the problem with calling the jihadist movement "Islamofascism"? Well, it's only a problem for certain people left of center - though why it should be a problem for them is a bit of a mystery, considering the left's historical campaign against fascism itself. But is the term Islamofascism useful or accurate? Yep, thinks Christopher Hitchens (Slate, 10/23/07). (10/23, 7:59 am)

Charles Krauthammer (RCP, 10/19/07), in trying to make sense of Congress' desire to pass a resolution condemning the Ottoman genocide of the Armenians, thinks it's better to attribute to stupidity and incompetence (rather than to conspiracy and cunning) Pelosi and the Democrats' position on this. (He calls this attribution "Krauthammer's Razor", which is pretty clever.) But as to the why, he asks if it is a desire to feel morally clean. Hey Nancy, wear a cup: "How does this work? Pelosi says: "Genocide still exists, and we saw it in Rwanda; we see it now in Darfur." Precisely. And what exactly is she doing about Darfur? Nothing. Pronouncing yourself on a genocide committed 90 years ago by an empire that no longer exists is Pelosi's demonstration of seriousness about existing, ongoing genocide?" (10/19, 8:36 am)

Apparently Christopher Hitchens had some choice words recently for an audience in Madison, Wisc. Ann Althouse (10/15/07, h/t Insty) has some quotes from his remarks. While it seems a bit heavy handed - to put it mildly - to say that heaven and North Korea are comparable (with NoKo actually having the advantage in at least one sense, i.e., you an die and leave NoKo), it is his scathing reply to an audience question that takes the prize here. The question was something like, Isn't it futile to think you can eliminate extremism by killing Muslims in Iraq? To which Hitchens, following a killing put-down of the questioner's intelligence ("'How does killing them lessen their numbers?’ You must have meant something more intelligent."), says, “Make them worry. Make them run scared. … I’m going to fight these people and every other theocrat all the way. All the way. You should be ashamed sneering at the people guarding you as you sleep.” (10/16, 8:10 am)

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