Saturday, April 30, 2005

The fall of Saigon - 30 years later

Thirty years ago today, two years or so after the United States essentially cut its losses after 58,000 dead and widespread discontent at home, the Republic of South Vietnam fell as the North Vietnamese conquered Saigon. The most vivid memory for me of this day is the picture of a helicopter evacuating the last staff from the roof of the U.S. embassy as scores of Vietnamese clambered in vain to reach the helicopter.

The United States 'lost' in Vietnam because we quit. It's interesting to note that the mainstream media as we know it today came of age during the latter stages of the Vietnam War. The biased, occasionally near treasonous, reporting of the MSM played a huge part in the disenchantment of the American public with the war. The MSM's reporting of the Tet Offensive, the Vietcong led uprising over the Lunar New Year in 1968, is particularly instructive. Tactically it was an unmitigated disaster for the Vietcong gutting its ranks (usefully for Hanoi as it enabled the North Vietnamese to more effectively 'run' the Vietcong in the years to come) but thanks to extraordinarily one-sided reporting the American public was convinced that Vietnam was no longer winnable and we were just helping a bunch of thugs.

How many of you remember the photo of an ARVN (Army of the Republic of South Vietnam) officer in plainclothes executing a North Vietnamese operative in the middle of the uprising? Absolutely justified -- the operative was in plainclothes as well in a combat setting. However Americans 'saw' only a brutal execution without the appropriate caption.

Thanks in large part to the increasingly powerful MSM and the rants of the newly powerful Left, exemplified by the execrable John Kerry, the United States retreated shamefully and abandoned our friends - who were no saints but were infinitely preferable to the Communists - and helped create a ruthless dictatorship that spawned among other things thousands of boat people who were willing to cross dangerous seas in rafts than face the depredations of Ho Chi Minh's victors. Indeed one might also remember the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia also as an effect of the U.S. throwing in the towel.

When the Monk and I were in high school, any American military presence abroad, notably El Salvador, was jeered: "It's going to be ANOTHER Vietnam." A scant ten years later, the doctrine of containment was proven right as the Soviet Union tottered and disintegrated with the vast bulk of its satellites cutting ties and looking West, including, as it turns out, Vietnam.

In the end, a generation later our mistake seems to have been set right except for the generation of South Vietnamese - our friends and allies - who were persecuted, murdered and driven out. The final aching part of this is the subsequent admissions by North Vietnamese generals that they could not have beaten us or the South had we not quit.

Friday, April 29, 2005

The Final Word on Sgrena Incident

This should put to rest all her lies:

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A US satellite reportedly recorded a checkpoint shooting in Iraq last month, enabling investigators to reconstruct how fast a car carrying a top Italian intelligence official and a freed hostage was traveling when US troops opened fire.

The report, which aired Thursday on CBS News, said US investigators concluded from the recording that the car was traveling at a speed of more than 60 miles (96 km) per hour.

Giuliana Sgrena has said the car was traveling at a normal speed of about 30 miles an hour when the soldiers opened fired, wounding her and killing Nicola Calipari, the Italian agent who had just secured her release from a month's captivity.

US soldiers said at the time of the March 4 incident that the car approached at a high rate of speed and that they fired only after it failed to respond to hand signals, flashing bright lights and warning shots.

The conflicting accounts were among a number of differences that have prevented US and Italian authorities from reaching agreement on what happened.

Today's sign of UN uselessness

Zimbabwe has been re-elected to a three-year term on the UN Human Rights Commission.

Other members: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh (HA!), Botswana, Brazil, Cameroon (ha!), China (GET REAL), Germany, Japan, Morocco (seriously), the US and Venezuela (HA!). Six unquestionable serial human rights violators on the Commission of 15. Not a good percentage.

Real justice in the military

From the AP story, the sergeant who attacked his fellow soldiers in Kuwait has been sentenced to death.

A military jury sentenced a soldier to death Thursday for a grenade and rifle attack on his own comrades during the opening days of the Iraq invasion, a barrage that killed two officers and that prosecutors said was driven by religious extremism.

Sgt. Hasan Akbar (search), who gave a brief, barely audible apology hours earlier, stood at attention between his lawyers as the verdict was delivered. He showed no emotion.

He could have been sentenced to life in prison with or without parole for the early morning March 2003 attack, which also wounded 14 fellow members of the Army's 101st Airborne Division (search) at Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait.

As James Taranto noted, shortly after Akbar's attack, a San Francisco "peace" rally contained a protestor's sign that read: "WE SUPPORT OUR TROOPS WHEN THEY SHOOT THEIR OFFICERS."

There hasn't been an execution of anyone on the military's death row since 1961. That streak should be ended.

An anthropologist's view on gay marriage

Peter Wood, an anthropologist, has a concise, scholarly article on the importance of heterosexual marriage. His article contains an excellent history of how anthropology as a discipline developed starting from Lewis Henry Morgan who studied kinship and familial ties vs. the "cultures" slant of Franz Boas and Margaret Mead and how the Boasian view of cultural particularity came to be ascendant in the US.

Last year the executive board of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) joined the controversy over gay marriage by issuing a statement that declared:

The results of more than a century of anthropological research on households, kinship relationships, and families, across cultures and through time, provide no support whatsoever for the view that either civilization or viable social orders depend upon marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution.

Ideologically, I suppose this is what one has come to expect from the AAA: a reflexive affirmation of leftist pieties. But still, it is surprising to see a professional organization propound such a breathless lie. As an AAA member for some 25 years, I am embarrassed.

In fact, some 150 years of systematic inquiry by anthropologists leaves little doubt that heterosexual marriage is found in nearly every human society and almost always as a pivotal institution. Homosexual marriage outside contemporary Western societies is exceedingly rare and never the basis of "viable social order."
Postmodernism was in the air, and so were exciting political ideologies including feminism and gender studies. Suddenly anthropology was ablaze with repudiations of the idea that the family, kinship, and marriage were the organizing ideas of human society.

Eradicating the central concept of an intellectual discipline, however, is not that easy. Anthropology departments proceeded by eliminating courses in kinship. Where the forest of kinship studies once stood, now grew the gardens of women's studies, and soon gender studies. Anthropologists who began their careers studying kinship redefined themselves as specialists on "inequality." The perspective that kinship holds a society together made way for the perspective that, at bottom, societies are "contested sites," where men and women strive against each other, the powerful oppress the weak, and the weak seek ways to subvert their oppressors.

In the last few years, the study of kinship has made a modest comeback in anthropology. Partly this is the product of young anthropologists with little or no training in kinship who go off to do fieldwork and discover themselves ignorant of the basics. But kinship studies are also heating up because anthropologists committed to feminist and gender studies have realized that to connect their ideological advocacy with the real world they too need to study kinship. Without a hint of embarrassment they have therefore announced the re-birth of the field they spent the last 20 years deconstructing. The new field is distinguished from the old as critical kinship studies, implying I suppose that Morgan and the five or six generations that followed him were practitioners of credulous kinship studies.

For an instance of the new critical kinship studies at work, consider the forum, "Are Men Missing?" in the newest issue of the journal The American Ethnologist. The lead article, "Wedding Bell Blues," is by Evelyn Blackwood, an anthropologist at Purdue University. She complains that anthropologists have assumed "heteronormative marriage" as "a foundational model for human society" and thereby treated "matrifocal families" as a weak alternative. Once we get rid of underlying "constructs" of "masculine domination," we are free to see the alternatives. Blackwood's principal example is a group in Western Sumatra, the Minangkabau, for whom descent is reckoned through women, a man moves upon marriage to his mother-in-law's household, and women hold both real estate and political clout.
The non-anthropologist who reaches this point may well ask, "So what?" Does it matter how a small ethnic group in Western Sumatra arranges its household affairs? Do the Minangkabau matrifocal households have any bearing on whether the United States should legalize gay marriage?

I don't know whether the editors of the American Ethnologist (published by the AAA) or the AAA's executive board really think that "The results of more than a century of anthropological research...provide no support whatsoever" for the importance of marriage as "an exclusively heterosexual institution." Maybe they are so trapped in contemporary ideology that this strange assertion seems plausible to them; or maybe this is just an attempt to throw dust in the eyes of opponents of gay marriage who might think (correctly) that the anthropological record does lend support to the view that heterosexual marriage is very likely a foundational human institution. Perhaps it is best to assume good faith, even though that implies dismal scholarship.

In any case, what the anthropological record really shows is that a society's decisions about marriage are among its most consequential. Political regimes and economic systems are, deep down, the results of particular ways of organizing families. Until Scandinavia and the Low Countries, Canada, and Massachusetts began their experiments with gay marriage, humanity appears to have steered away from this particular option. Possibly gay marriage will be a step forward for humanity; but it is a step into the dark. Civilization as we have known it, even on the western coast of Sumatra, has depended until now on exclusive heterosexual marriage.

Good enemies

I am believer that the character of one's enemies tells you a lot about yourself. Victor Davis Hanson reminds us today that the current American 'unpopularity' globally is due to the fact that we are doing the right things which are unpopular with the feckless European bureaucracy, autocratic Arab regimes and the farcical UN.

...In short, who exactly does not like the United States and why? First, almost all the 20 or so illiberal Arab governments that used to count on American realpolitik's giving them a pass on accounting for their crimes. They fear not the realist Europeans, nor the resource-mad Chinese, nor the old brutal Russians, but the Americans, who alone are prodding them to open their economies and democratize their corrupt political cultures. We must learn to expect, not lament, their hostility, and begin to worry that things would be indeed wrong if such unelected dictators praised the United States.
Blue-helmeted peace-keepers, we learn, are as likely to commit as prevent crimes; and the only thing constant about such troops is that they will never go first into harm's way in Serbia, Kosovo, the Congo, or Dafur to stop genocide. Even worse, the U.N. has proved to be a terrible bully, an unforgivable sin for a self-proclaimed protector of the weak and innocent — loud false charges against Israel for its presence in the West Bank, not a peep about China in Tibet; tough talk about Palestinian rights, far less about offending Arabs over Darfur.
Europeans sold Saddam terrible arms for oil well after the first Gulf War. Democratic Israel or Taiwan means nothing to them; indeed, democracy is increasingly becoming the barometer by which to judge European hostility. Cuba, China, Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah — not all that bad; the United States, Taiwan, and Israel, not all that good. Personally, I'd rather live in a country that goes into an anguished national debate over pulling the plug on a lone woman than one that blissfully vacations on the beach oblivious to 15,000 elderly cooked to well done back in Paris.
When Europe orders all American troops out; when Japan claims our textbooks whitewash the Japanese forced internment or Hiroshima; when China cites unfair trade with the United States; when South Korea says get the hell off our DMZ; when India complains that we are dumping outsourced jobs on them; ...when Canada complains that we are not carrying our weight in collective North American defense;...when the Arab Street seethes that we are pushing theocrats and autocrats down its throat; when Mexico builds a fence to keep us out;...and when the world ignores American books, films, and popular culture, then perhaps we should be worried. But something tells me none of that is going to happen in this lifetime.

More Clinton Legacy

The first three paragraphs of this NY Times article show the folly of the Agreed Framework farce that Clinton accepted in 1994, urged on by our worst ex-President Jimmy Carter:

The head of the Defense Intelligence Agency said Thursday that American intelligence agencies believed North Korea had mastered the technology for arming its missiles with nuclear warheads, an assessment that if correct, means the North could build weapons to threaten Japan and perhaps the western United States.

While Vice Adm. Lowell Jacoby, the Defense Intelligence Agency chief, said in Senate testimony that North Korea had been judged to have the "capability" to put a nuclear weapon atop its missiles, he stopped well short of saying it had done so, or even that it had assembled warheads small enough for the purpose. Nor did he give evidence to back up his view during the public session of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

[But] his assessment of North Korea's progress exceeded what officials have publicly declared before.

In a rather bald effort to position herself for 2008 and cover up the complete failures of her husband, Hillary Clinton jumped in the fray:

In an interview on Thursday, Mrs. Clinton called Admiral Jacoby's statement "the first confirmation, publicly, by the administration that the North Koreans have the ability to arm a missile with a nuclear device that can reach the United States," adding, "Put simply, they couldn't do that when George Bush became president, and now they can."

Right. And all the talking in the world would have stopped the NoKors. And the Brooklyn Bridge is for sale at liquidation price.

The best solution: allow Japan to go nuclear. The threat alone would scare the pants off the Chinese who would in turn lean hard on the NoKors. In addition: threaten to sanction the SoKors if they continue their appeasement-based Sunshine Policy and remove all US troops from the DMZ tripwire zone.

Enough already: kill the filibuster

Time for the Constitutional Option.

The Democrats rejected Frist's proposal to allow 100 hours of debate on the Bush judicial nominations. After the time period, Frist's proposal stated that the nominees would receive an up-or-down vote and no nominees (even for future Democrat presidents) could be bottled up in committee.

This farce has gone on too long and the Republican Senators who are happy to accede to Democratic tactics (McCain, Chafee, etc.) are complicit in this hijacking of the Constitution. This is not a checks-and-balances issue: the check is the Senate's ability to deny the nomination, not to procedurally squash it. Either Frist acts, or he should be sacked.

Captain Ed says the Frist offer is clever because it flushes out the Democrats:

They aren't fighting for debate or free speech -- they want to avoid having to defend their opposition at all costs. The Democrats want to limit the debate to sound-bite sniping in the sympathetic press, not be granted scads of time that will ultimately expose the lack of evidence they have of any unfitness or impropriety on any of these nominees.

Maybe, but only the most credulous believe that the Democrats are fighting for debate, free speech, or principle of any sort (other than screwing the President).

Robert Robb hits the nail on the head by noting that the Senatorial procedures themselves are farcical and simply stupid. Regarding the filibuster, he states:

In reality, far from being a reason not to confirm conservative judges, Senate traditions and practices are a problem in their own right.

Let's take the filibuster. Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., says it is to protect "unlimited debate." But in today's practice, there is no such senatorial debate.

Instead, there is a virtual filibuster. The majority leader is informed of an intent to filibuster. The leader then decides if the 60 votes are there for cloture, or if a cloture vote is desirable for political reasons, even if the votes are not there. Either a cloture petition is filed or the matter is dropped.

The debate, to the extent it takes place at all, is through dueling news conferences, press releases, television and radio appearances and staged rallies. Anyplace except on the floor of the Senate.

The filibuster used to be an exceptional maneuver. With the virtual filibuster, the exception has become the rule. All major matters now require 60 votes in the Senate to pass.

So, far from being a protection for debate, the filibuster in modern practice requires an extraordinary majority for the Senate to act on anything of importance - contrary to what the Constitution contemplates.

The only exception is matters pertaining to the budget resolution [and certain defense issues -- TKM], which are exempt from the filibuster. This has resulted in a perversion of the budget resolution process, trying to stick in things not really budget related - such as drilling in the Arctic refuge - so that they can be approved on a simple majority vote.

And the filibuster isn't necessarily the worst abuse of power a Senator can commit: there's also the "hold":

It is also revealing, and not a surprise, that the worst abuse occurs outside the rules. That is the practice of individual senators putting what is called a "hold" on the consideration of presidential nominees.

The rules don't provide for this. It is not a recorded event, even though it often leaks out. And it is a gross abuse of political power.

Usually the hold is put on to compel some action by the executive branch. And it seldom relates to anything the actual nominee has done.

A couple of years ago, Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., put a hold on Mike Leavitt's appointment to head up the EPA because she was upset about false assurances the agency had made about air quality after 9/11. But Leavitt had been governor of Utah at the time.

Abuse is bipartisan. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, once was holding up about 400 Air Force promotions, demanding that four transport planes be delivered to his state's National Guard.

More recently, holds have been placed on Bush nominees to head up the EPA, which is again vacant, FDA and the Office of U.S. Trade Representative.

This is not, as commonly claimed for the filibuster, protection against tyranny by the majority. Instead, it is the tyranny of the smallest minority of all, a single senator.

* * *
Its traditions and practices, far from deserving honor and deference, need a thorough scrubbing and reform.

Science quackery of the day

Now it's an "energy imbalance" that's behind the mythical global warming, as "proven" by computer models. The same computer modeling that is notoriously inaccurate in the climatological analysis: see this page, this article and this one for starters.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Congress investigates the Axis of Weasels

From Claudia Rosett, who deserves the Pulitzer she'll never receive as long as that prize's selection committee keeps rewarding the AP for staged photos:

Next up in the U.N. oil-for-food scandal is a trip down the money trail, by way of the French bank tapped by the United Nations - in cahoots with Saddam Hussein - to handle the main escrow account of the graft-laden U.N. program. Tomorrow, the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing delving into some of the oil-for-food banking details. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican of California who will lead the hearing, expects that with some of the material due to be disclosed, "heads will turn."

Meanwhile, Der Spiegel reports that 50 of the 148 German companies that supplied Iraq under the Oil-for-Food program are being investigated by the Volcker Commission, including engineering giant Siemens.


Media Bias 101

Today's example is from the AP's Jennifer Loven in a story regarding the prime-time press conference Pres. Bush has called tonight. Here is paragraph 4 of the story:

A prime-time audience for what amounts to a speech at the top of the session allows Bush to seek to move the focus of public attention away from the alleged ethical improprieties of a key White House ally in Congress, House Majority Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and the troubled nomination of Bush's choice to be the next U.N. ambassador, John Bolton. Both controversies have dominated talk in the nation's capital in recent weeks.

You see? Public attention is on DeLay's ethics and the DEMOCRATS' specious objections to John Bolton, not on issues like energy policy, social security or the UN's corruption. Talk about the news media's liberal echo chamber.

Must read of the day

Anything Bernard Lewis writes about the Middle East is worth reading. Thankfully Real Clear Politics obtained permission to post his article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, Freedom and Justice in the Modern Middle East. Take the time to peruse it.

Pork-cutter Coburn

Tom Coburn is an interesting fellow. He is a social conservative bordering on idiocy (he complained that NBC ran Schindler's List uncut and uncensored because it contained nudity -- the fact that those were emaciated naked Jews running around for Nazis to evaluate how quickly they'd be killed didn't matter to Coburn; Republicans and Democrats rightly excoriated him, most notably Alfonse D'Amato's verbal arsewhipping on the Senate floor).

But two good things about Coburn: (1) He HATES pork and wasteful spending. Part of the 1994 House Republican freshman class, he riled leadership by constantly complaining about wasteful governmental spending. In 2004, he withstood challenges from right and left to win a senate seat from his native Oklahoma. And he has PO'd Republicans in the current Senate by railing against pork-barrel legislation early in his term.

(2) He's an obstetrician who refuses to put aside his medical practice whilst a Senator. Thus, he flies home to deliver babies.

So, in its perverse mindset, Coburn may be guilty of ethical violations for continuing to practice medicine. As Robert Novak explains:

In a legislative body whose members spend much of their time off the Senate floor begging for money, it is worthy of Kafka that the only pending ethical proceeding involves Coburn's concept of the citizen-legislator. It is serious. Unless the rules are changed, Coburn must either break his campaign pledge of continuing baby deliveries or leave the Senate.

Solution? How about only accepting enough income from medicine to cover the malpractice insurance costs and remitting the rest to charity?

Cedar Revolution Analysis

Michael Young is the editor of the English-language Daily Star newspaper in Beirut. His column on Tech Central Station is interesting. Here's an excerpt:

In the shorter term, most Lebanese will be closely watching the rise to power of Saadeddine Hariri, the thirty-something son of the former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, whose assassination on Feb. 14 sparked anti-Syrian protests. In recent weeks, the Saudis effectively crowned the inexperienced Saadeddine their man in Lebanon (he headed the Hariri business operations in the kingdom), and set up meetings between him and President Bush and French President Chirac. He will certainly be elected to the next Parliament, and is surely a future prime minister.

But he is also something else: He is a Saudi message to the Syrian regime that the idea of a "strong Sunni" in Lebanon has been revived, despite Hariri's assassination. This is partly directed against the minority Alawite regime in Syria, which has sidelined Syria's Sunnis for some four decades. The Sunnis will be closely watching what happens in Lebanon, even as the Lebanese finally resume defining their own destiny. They are now free to make their own mistakes.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

A Maple Revolution?

The Canadian corruption scandal that you cannot learn anything about from the Canadian papers is thisclose to bringing down the Canadian government and causing new elections in late June, according to the article linked in the title. The NDP (a Liberal ally) nonetheless signed a big pork-barrel spending bill the Libs advocated because it wanted to do "something positive" with the corrupt party in power. [HT]

Remember, the Gomery Commission in Canada is investigating the corruption allegations but has a blanket publication ban on its activities unless Judge Gomery explicitly approves the dissemination of specified material (such as today's testimony, according to the Captain).

Mark Steyn notes the preposterousness of the publication bans in this piece for Canada's National Review equivalent, The Western Standard (free registration required). Here are some excerpts:

Sunlight is the best disinfectant, as they say, and that’s what the Gomery commission was supposed to be: a bright light on the murkier corners of the Liberal state. Obviously, that’s not what the Grits [Liberals] themselves saw it as: governments appoint commissions mainly for giving the appearance of letting the sunshine in. But the fact that our rulers feel the need for even a sham shaft of sunshine is itself important to the health of democracy. It’s not a good sign when an inquiry that’s supposed to let the sunshine in instead becomes most famous for pulling down the shutters and plunging the room into darkness. So, although he certainly had the legal power to impose a publication ban, Judge Gomery should not have done so. A publication ban that protects Fred Schmuck in a criminal trial of a big-time mobster is one thing; a publication ban that protects the Liberal party’s reputation in what ought to be a wide-ranging non-legalistic public investigation is quite another.

Indeed. But the fact is that any Canadian can get whatever information he needs by going to Captain's Quarters website and reading the extensive body of work Ed Morrissey has amassed on the Gomery inquiry. Funny thing is, Steyn cannot even divulge the information I just gave you in that previous sentence in his Western Standard column because it's published in Canada:

. . . anyone who wants to know what the “explosive testimony” actually says can do so by going on the Internet and visiting the American website that first revealed it. Neither I nor the Western Standard is supposed to reveal the identity of the site, and indeed finding it out for yourself is half the fun, isn’t it? [It is] [t]he nearest our generation will get to the thrilling frisson of living in Nazi-occupied Europe and listening to the BBC on shortwave in the attic. Then again, why should we have to?

* * *
You can be an Irishman with a Norwegian site administrator and a U.S. hosting service and a Tuvaluan web address but, if someone reads your post on the Gomery testimony in Winnipeg, that’s a breach of the publication ban under Canadian law. If Judge Gomery pursues the Minnesota man directly, would a U.S. court enforce any Canadian court decision? Unlikely.

Actually, the answer is no. In the US, publication is not at the point of readership (Canada) but at the point where the publication is made (Minnesota for Captain Ed). And unlike Canada, Britain and Australia, which all enforce the "publication" concept at the site of the reader, we have a First Amendment.

British Academicians with integrity

After railing against the British Association of University Teachers' passage of a resolution calling for boycotting Israel's premier universities, it's only fair to note that the AUT has been ripped by many of its members and the British professoriat:

The Association of University Teachers (AUT) has received a flood of protests, accompanied by an increasing number of resignations, following its decision to adopt boycotts against Israeli universities last Friday.

The backlash, which may take the form of mass resignations from the union, has seen an outpouring of protests by Jewish and non-Jewish academics across Britain.

* * *
The outpouring of opposition to the AUT's boycott motions comes after 262 academics signed a letter to The Guardian newspaper last week expressing support for "continued collaborations in science, technology, health, education, human rights and myriad other fields," adding that "such interactions have already contributed to the reduction of tensions and advancement of cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians by developing joint grassroots projects and academic ventures."

Some reactions from Jerusalem Post readers are worthy of a quick look:

Mladen Andrijasevic; Beersheba, Israel: From 9/11/2001 to 4/01/2005 there have been more than 2036 major Islamist terrorist attacks around the globe. During that period there were 7 non- Islamist attacks perpetrated by ETA, Maoist terrorists in Nepal and Corsican separatists. That is, Islamists were responsible for 99.65 percent of all the terrorist attacks. Since September 2000 there have been 143 Palestinian suicide bombers who exploded among Israeli civilians. There is no doubt whatsoever that they deliberately chose to kill civilians in buses, shopping malls and cafes.

And yet with all the above facts known to the AUT they chose to boycott Israeli universities. This is sheer madness or pure anti- Semitism. A proof that anti-Semitism is a form of madness.

* * *
David Cohen, St. Louis, US: The fact that English university professors participating in the AUT's boycott can engage in such intellectually bankrupt activity is proof positive that they should be fired for lacking the intelligence and professional ethics required to hold their academic positions. They are a laughable bunch of imbeciles. Unfortunately, their objectives are anything but laughable...

* * *
Jerry Levin, Baltimore, Maryland, USA: I find it interesting this boycott is undertaken on the 100th anniversary of the publication of Albert Einstein's groundbreaking theories. He of course was subject to a boycott in 1933.



On the same day that the NYTimes publishes an editorial claiming that the notion of a WMD program in Iraq was "fictitious", the CIA's Iraq Survey Group issues a report that states it CANNOT RULE OUT the allegation that Iraq transferred WMD to Syria before the US attack.

The ISG is led by Charles Duelfer, whose previous testimony to Congress and interim report I discussed last year. Duelfer is a WMD skeptic (that's sceptic in the UK). But he knows the difference between evidence of absence and absence of evidence. Here's an excerpt from the Washington Times:

The CIA's chief weapons inspector said he cannot rule out the possibility that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were secretly shipped to Syria before the March 2003 invasion, citing "sufficiently credible" evidence that WMDs may have been moved there.

Inspector Charles Duelfer, who heads the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), made the findings in an addendum to his final report filed last year. He said the search for WMD in Iraq -- the main reason President Bush went to war to oust Saddam Hussein -- has been exhausted without finding such weapons. Iraq had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons in the early 1990s.

But on the question of Syria, Mr. Duelfer did not close the books. "ISG was unable to complete its investigation and is unable to rule out the possibility that WMD was evacuated to Syria before the war," Mr. Duelfer said in a report posted on the CIA's Web site Monday night.

For more information on the Duelfer report, see this post, this one, and this one too.

Volcker: Annan not cleared at all

Paul Volcker woke up from the hibernation he must have been in when Kofi Annan proclaimed that the first Volcker report on the Cotecna-Annan ties had exonerated the UN Secretary General (notice that the UN head has the same title as the head of the Communist party in the USSR had?).

Here's the exoneration refutation:

In an interview aired yesterday with Fox News, Mr. Volcker took direct issue with Mr. Annan's insistence that he had been exonerated by investigators probing both his role in overseeing the Iraq aid program and conflicts of interest involving a key contract awarded to a Swiss firm that employed Mr. Annan's son.

"I thought we criticized [Mr. Annan] rather severely," Mr. Volcker said of his panel's interim report, released March 29. "I would not call that an exoneration."

Asked point-blank whether Mr. Annan had been cleared of wrongdoing in the $10 billion scandal, Mr. Volcker replied, "No."

The Liberal echo chamber

Byron York, author of The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy (use my Amazon link, PLEASE) discusses the rising influence of in the column linked above. Here's a telling excerpt:

MoveOn was started by the husband-and-wife software entrepreneurs Wes Boyd and Joan Blades. In a conversation last fall, Blades told me it began one day in 1998 when she and Boyd were having lunch in a Chinese restaurant near Berkeley, Calif., where they live. They were discussing the Clinton impeachment battle, then raging in Washington, and concluded that Republicans seemed to have gone crazy.

They found that everyone in the restaurant agreed with them. "We were hearing another table where people were saying, 'How can we be doing this?' " Blades told me. "We were just hearing all around us, 'This is crazy.' "

On the basis of that polling in one of the bluest areas of the United States, Boyd and Blades decided to create MoveOn. "Using e-mail and the Web, we can focus a broad and deep consensus in the American public into action," they wrote.

And the efficacy of MoveOn's approach? It has failed to reach its electoral goals in 1998, 2000, 2002, and 2004.

Instapundit 1, NYTimes 0

A rarity today: Prof. Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, takes out his whoopin' stick and whacks the NYTimes HARD twice. First, in the post linked in the title hereto, second by linking his previous post that completely eviscerates the revisionist history claim that Bush did not justify going to war in Iraq on the basis of installing democracy and overthrowing Saddam.

For the record, here are Bush's speeches wherein he explicitly stated that democracy in Iraq was a goal:

--> The 2003 State of the Union

--> The 2002 address to the UN's General Assembly (prior to the UN resolution he obtained)

--> And in remarks on Feb. 27, 2003

This shreds the NYT's statement regarding "the democratic transformation that President Bush seized upon as a rationale for the invasion after his claims about weapons of mass destruction turned out to be fictitious."

See Insty for the whole beat-down. And "wrong" (as Insty says) or "unproven" does not equal "fictitious".

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Yanks' only hope?

Is it impossible for a 75-year old man to be patient? That's the age George Steinbrenner will reach on July 4 and the Tampa contingent of the Yankees' front office (which jumps every time he twitches) is getting reamed in the press for its awful bullpen manoevers (Heredia, Hammond, et al.), such as in this column by Tom Verducci. The Great Verducci makes a number of good points but misses the worst of the Yankees' problems: they have 12 pitchers under guaranteed fat contracts this season. That shrinks the bench to 13 hitters. This will be a problem in general and will be exacerbated during the Yanks' roadies against NL teams.

Now I disagree that losing Todd Williams and Jake Westbrook (who gave no sign of actually having a clue until late 2003) are disastrous deals, but Verducci is deadly accurate in pounding the Yanks for trading Ted Lilly, Dodgers' fill-in closer Yhency Brazoban (ANOTHER Jeff Weaver-related fark up -- he was in the package for Brown) and losing Lieber. Plus Damaso Marte could have been the Yanks' closer in waiting for Rivera, as Rivera was for Wetteland. And the Yanks' luck with injuries and idiots (the latter IS a scouting issue -- after all, the scout who nabbed Jeter loved the mental makeup and everyone knows how that turned out) has been awful: Ramon Ramirez, Jorge DePaula, Christian Parker and Danny Borrell all losing years and effectiveness to arm troubles, Alex Graman and Ed Yarnall lacking the mental capacity to pitch in the big leagues, David Walling lacking the mental capacity to pitch in the higher minors.

So what's the future? Unlike the Dodgers who have recently traded for young power arms (Brazoban, Penny) and the Marlins who have assiduously developed same (Willis, Burnett, Beckett), the Yanks' pipeline is a long one. The Yanks had the chance to trade Alfonso Soriano for pitching help in the 2003 offseason -- they didn't need ARod, they needed some hair of the dog that bit them in the '03 Series: a staff like the Penny-Pavano-Willis-BECKETT group that dominated their hitters.

Currently, only Chien-Mien Wang and Ramirez could be used in the majors this year; and the Yanks' best prospects (Tyler Clippard, Jeff Karstens, Ben Julianel [reliever], the rather wild Edwardo Sierra) are two years away. And the Yanks' track record at the majors for molding the kids they have is poor (Lilly is the exception). The conclusion? Thank goodness the Yanks will finally lose some stiffs to attrition after this season (Brown, Bernie, Quantrill, Karsay).

More reason to FIRE BILL FRIST? -- UPDATED

An update: ABC News reports that Frist is standing firm on the principle that the nominees deserve confirmation votes. Thus, the Stupid Party has not reached its usual depth of stupidity. Here is the text of the original post:

The Stupid Party is continuing to use judicial nominees as bargaining chips even though it controls the Senate. The latest news, following up on this article is that Democratic Senatorial Leader Harry Reid is negotiating with Bill Frist to allow the nomination of two of the three Sixth Circuit nominations that have been held up by Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow FOR FOUR YEARS in exchange for two concessions: (1) scuttling the nomination of Henry Saad (who is an Arab-American Republican from Michigan -- and Democrats rely on the large Arab immigrant population of Michigan to vote for them) and (2) TAKING THE CONSTITUTIONAL OPTION OFF THE TABLE.

So in exchange for allowing two well-qualified nominees to be confirmed to a court that has been in "judicial emergency" status since before Bush took office, Reid wants a nominee of Levin/Stabenow's own and no leverage for the Republicans to confirm Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown, William G. Myers III (who may be more questionable than some of Bush's other nominees) and Bill Pryor (who the Republicans desert at their peril). In other words, Reid has offered a sucker deal. And The Monk says even money that Frist takes it.

Why? The Republicans' history of trading Circuit Court confirmations for mere votes or nominations of district court judges and the GOP's history of trading agency appointments for allowing Clinton's judicial nominations to go through. See this article for some details.

HT: Cap'n Ed.

All you need to know on Social Security


The primary model for the Bush Social Security reform proposals is the national pension system that Chile instituted in 1981. Chile requires employers to set aside about 12% of salaries into personal accounts for employees, which they then control by choosing investment funds to put their money in.

John Tierney of the NY Times compares what his expectations are for Social Security receipts with what they would have been under the Chilean system if his Social Security deductions had been invested in the funds that his friend Pablo, a Chilean economist who has lived and worked in Chile since the two men graduated college, chose.

Here's what he found:

After comparing our relative payments to our pension systems (since salaries are higher in America, I had contributed more), we extrapolated what would have happened if I'd put my money into Pablo's mutual fund instead of the Social Security trust fund. We came up with three projections for my old age, each one offering a pension that, like Social Security's, would be indexed to compensate for inflation:

(1) Retire in 10 years, at age 62, with an annual pension of $55,000. That would be more than triple the $18,000 I can expect from Social Security at that age.

(2) Retire at age 65 with an annual pension of $70,000. That would be almost triple the $25,000 pension promised by Social Security starting a year later, at age 66.

(3)Retire at age 65 with an annual pension of $53,000 [more than double SocSec] and a one-time cash payment of $223,000.

I'm thinking about freshening up my Spanish and moving south!

Campaign Finance reform = deprivation of free speech

That's all it really is, as Ryan Sager shows in a case study of the "nonpartisan" group touting campaign reform in Illinois:

Illinois Campaign Reform Coalition, an umbrella group in the state [is] lobbying for sweeping restrictions on political speech.

It turns out that the eight groups under the umbrella (ICPR, the Sunshine Project, the Citizen Advocacy Center, Protestants for the Common Good, the Better Government Association, Common Cause Illinois, Illinois Public Interest Research Group and the League of Women Voters of Illinois) have received about $3 million in grants from George Soros' Open Society Institute and the Joyce Foundation since 1997.

Those names should sound familiar to anyone who has followed the unmasking of the campaign-finance lobby at the national level. They are two of the eight liberal foundations that spent more than $120 million between 1994 and 2004 to fake up a "grass-roots movement" to pass the McCain-Feingold law, defend it in court and lobby for further restrictions on political speech.

These state groups are part of the same effort to restrict all political speech deemed unworthy of a hearing by a cadre of liberal foundations.

US-Italy barrier shooting report update

The Pentagon issued a report that matched the insider preview that MSNBC obtained and we reported on here regarding the shooting of a car carrying Giuliana Sgrena and the Italian spy sent to obtain her release from the Iraqi terrorists with whom she sympathizes. The shooting resulted in the death of the spy, Nicola Calipari, when the car failed to stop at a US checkpoint on the road to the Baghdad Airport.

The Pentagon investigation:
. . . has cleared American troops of any wrongdoing in the shooting death last month of an Italian security agent in Baghdad, according to a senior Pentagon official.

* * *
The U.S. soldiers involved will face no disciplinary actions, the Pentagon official said Monday.

Naturally Giuliana Sgrena, who was shielded by the Italian spy sent to retrieve her from the Iraqi terrorists who captured her, disagrees. But her story doesn't wash, as we noted here. Descriptions of the vehicle's speed as it approached the roadblock seem to match the 33-44 mph we noted here.

Here's the latest description of the incident from MSNBC:
The investigation found the car was about 130 yards from the checkpoint when the soldiers flashed their lights as a warning to stop. But the car kept coming and, at 90 yards, warning shots were fired. At 65 yards, when the car failed to stop, the soldiers used lethal force — a machine gun burst that killed Calipari and wounded Sgrena and the driver.

Senior U.S. military officials say it took only about four seconds from the first warning to the fatal shots, but insist the soldiers acted properly under the current rules of engagement.

The Italian Left, which heretofore never met a spy it liked, is up in arms.

HT: Jawa owner

Cedar Revolution Update

The Guardian reports that Syria's troops and its spies have left Lebanon. If true, a great victory for the Cedar Revolution. Mind the qualifier -- never trust Commies or totalitarians and Syria's Ba'athists are the latter based on the former (Ba'athism is modeled on Stalinism).

Hopefully our favorite Cedarite will be pleased:

Monday, April 25, 2005

The fallen British public

Melanie Phillips puts the British AUT vote to boycott two Israeli Universities into its place in the larger framework of British, and Blairite, anti-Semitism:

The willed destruction of the Jewish state is the poison running through the bloodstream of the British intelligentsia. It’s no use saying that the last time Jews were boycotted in the universities was in 1930s Germany, as the British Israel-haters will merely reply that the Jews have turned into the new Nazis. It’s no use saying that their views are anti-Jewish, since they contend that seeking the destruction of Israel is not anti-Jewish. But of course it is, profoundly and viscerally through its selectivity, double standards, moral inversion, obsessional malice and employment of ancient stereotypes.

The AUT motion cannot be dismissed as the ravings of a tiny minority of far-left academics in a marginal union. It may be that other academics, appalled by what has occurred, will resign from that union or protest in other ways. But this development is merely the latest in an apparently unstoppable stream of comments and incidents of an anti-Jewish nature. And the crucial thing is the absence of outrage in the wider community — indeed, on occasion, it provides its endorsement. The AUT motion came at the end of a week which saw the award of the MBE [Member of the British Empire -- an honor from the Queen] to Orla Guerin, the BBC reporter whose venomous dispatches from Israel have come to epitomise the virulent anti-Israel hatred at the BBC. For her to be given this award, presented by Baroness Symons, the junior Foreign Office minister, is a calculated kick in the teeth by the Labour government towards the Jewish community in Britain, where feeling about Guerin’s reporting runs very high as the government well knows.

The Jewish community in Britain is under siege.

Here's an excerpt from the JPost report on Guerin's award:

Last year, in response to one of Guerin's dispatches about Israel's capture of a mentally challenged 16-year-old would-be suicide bomber, Sharansky wrote the BBC that it employs a "gross double standard to the Jewish state" that smacks of anti-Semitism.

Sharansky protested that Guerin, in her report, portrayed the event as "Israel's cynical manipulation of a Palestinian youngster for propaganda purposes." He said this "reveals a deep-seated bias against Israel. Only a total identification with the goals and methods of the Palestinian terror groups would drive a reporter to paint Israel in such an unflattering light instead of placing the focus on the bomber and the organization that recruited him."

The report, he said, "has not only set a new standard for biased journalism, it has also raised concerns that it was tainted by anti-Semitism."

In his letter, Sharansky quoted Guerin as describing to viewers how the IDF "paraded the child in front of the international media," then "produced" the child for reporters, "posed" him a second time for the cameras, and then "rushed him back into a jeep."

Likewise, the Evening Standard, which interviewed Guerin in 2003, wrote that she "questioned Israel's claim to be a democracy, compared its press freedom with Zimbabwe's and accused its officials of paranoia."

Wisdom of the Day

1. Jay Nordlinger, naturally. From an interview of Roger Ailes by Jeff Greenfield:

“Freedom of press didn’t invent democracy; democracy allowed freedom of the press to flourish. We need to defend democracy.”


2. Nordlinger, again. NYU apparently selected Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman as commencement speaker. Apparently this didn't sit well with some NYU'ers (have no idea what their mascot is, they are inconsequential in any sport) and the student newspaper editorialized:

"the student newspaper editorialized, “Instead of being honored by the presence of Maya Angelou, Jon Stewart, or Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the class of 2005 will be receiving Shirley Tilghman..."

Shirley Tilghman must be losing sleep being compared adversely to Jon Stewart. Marquez, by the way, is a major Castro apologist.

3. Nordlinger, thrice. This contrasts nicely to the boorish behavior of many celebrities:

Here in Las Vegas, we know all about Andre [Agassi] as a class act. But a personal story.

A local charity has a Magical Forest at Christmas, with Santa for the kids. I am normally Santa on opening night — Thanksgiving. It is a tradition for many families to get their family Christmas-card photo with Santa on this night, because the whole family has gathered for Thanksgiving.

On Thanksgiving 2002, Andre and Steffi [Graf] brought their infant son and WAITED in line for an hour to get pictures. Andre and Steffi do not have to wait in line in Las Vegas. Jaden refused to sit on Santa’s lap and the wait was in vain. Andre agreed to pose with Santa so the charity could use the shot for publicity. I call that class.

P.S. Jaden was still afraid of Santa in 2003, but finally ran up eagerly in 2004 to tell Santa what he wanted, and his parents were able to get the pictures they wanted.

I include this in part because I always root for Agassi and the Monk is an admirer or Steffi's.

4. Why multiculturalism and liberal democracy don't mix. When push comes to shove the principles liberalism must take precedence over multiculturalism. And most 'liberals' can't bear to to that. [Part of an excellent article on post-modernism and the multicultural infection in Great Britain.]

...some of these cultures and multiculturalism itself were incompatible with liberalism. Multiculturalism holds that all cultures are equal; liberalism is the doctrine that all human beings have equal rights; so if a culture holds that some human beings, (e.g., women) have fewer rights than others, then liberalism has to confront that culture and reject the multiculturalism sheltering it. [emphasis added] On some issues liberal society can reach a modus vivendi with other cultures — for instance, by designing school uniforms that conform to Muslim views of female modesty. On really important questions such as "honor killings," however, liberal society has to impose its own values without apology, if necessary in condign ways.

5. Ned Rice has a nice piece on Catholicism, the Constitution and fallacy of a 'living, breathing document':

In either case, at issue here is the notion of a fixed set of standards versus the ebb and flow of public opinion over the course of time: Which should have a greater role in determining public (or church) policy? In other words, are the Ten Commandments a living, breathing document that must constantly evolve in order to remain relevant in an ever-changing world? Or to put it another way, where is it written that we all the right to speech, religion, a free press, assembly, and gun ownership, among other things? Well, O.K., I mean besides the Constitution?

The Founding Fathers knew that mores and customs come and go like fashion, and that a new legislature was bound to enact any number of bad laws guided by nothing more than the shifting winds of public opinion. Especially with a nutcake like John Adams in Congress. So they created a standard — the Constitution — with which all new laws would have to be compatible or else they couldn’t become laws.

Among the many things the Founding Fathers wisely anticipated was that they couldn’t anticipate everything. So they also built in a mechanism for amending the Constitution so it could be fixed and rigid, yet still capable of evolving. Which came in pretty handy when we finally figured out that women and non-white people have rights, that slavery is immoral, that alcohol is evil, that no alcohol is worse, and so on. They purposefully made it much harder to amend the Constitution than to just pass a law, though, which is why the Family and Medical Leave Act is something most people either laugh at or just ignore and not a God-given right.

Subpoena power in the terror war

From the no-shock file: one of the indicted terrorists in Spain's ongoing terrorism trial against al-Qaeda members who planned or aided the 9-11-01 attacks is a reporter for al-Jazeera.

Naturally, he was merely under house arrest before being "temporarily released" to testify in his defense.

Those European courts are so nice to our enemies.

HT: Jawa Man (linked in title)

Vladimir Putin: I want to be a Commie again

Here's a look into Vladimir Putin's soul that is disturbing, but no surprise if you've followed the Russian premier's actions in the Crimea and Caucasus in the past three years:

The collapse of the Soviet Union was "the greatest political catastrophe of the last century," Russian president Vladimir Putin said Monday as he delivered his annual state of the nation address.

The former KGB agent said the 1991 breakup of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was a "true drama" that left tens of millions of Russian people living outside Russia, in breakaway republics formerly under Soviet control.

But Putin will keep the international criticism at bay (although there are tons of European leftists who probably agree with the "catastrophe" label of the USSR's fall) with mutterings like this:

But in Monday's speech, Putin said Russia's main goal now is to develop a free and democratic society, though he clarified that it would be a democracy based on Russian traditions instead of Western ideals.

"We must become a free society of free people," he said.

Sure. Will that be before or after he shuts down all non-government kowtowing press outlets and nationalizes the oil, gas and minerals industries?

Morning Update

Some information for you this morning.

First, Robert Novak details the ridiculous Bolton-nomination operation in the Senate and White House and shows how weak the Republicans are for caving in to Sen. Chris Dodd's game of hardball. Dodd has an uncanny ability to be on the wrong side of history: he is pro-Castro, pro-Chavez, was pro-Sandinista and pro-El Salvadoran commies. He hates Bolton and Bolton's friend and ally Otto Reich for their anticommunist stances during the 1980s, especially viz. Latin American communist dictatorships (Nicaragua, Cuba) and commie insurgents (El Salvador). He prevented Reich's nomination for an asst. secretary of state position from coming to the Senate floor in 2001. Yet his whining and crying about the BS allegations of Melody Townsell have had an effect by forcing George Voinovich to leave his cajones back in Ohio.

Mark Steyn's take on this is great:

Britain's Daily Telegraph had an intriguing headline the other day: ''U.S. police force to recruit capuchin monkey for 'intelligence' work.'' Maybe when the Mesa, Ariz., SWAT team is through with the monkey in question, we could get him made chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He'd have his work cut out doing a worse job than Dick Lugar, the Republican senator who spent the last week getting walloped by a freak show alliance comprising (a) an opposition party whose foreign policy the electorate decided it was unable to take seriously and (b) jelly-spined GOP ''moderates'' who insist on taking it seriously.

Next, the inestimable Andy McCarthy discusses how the objections to the Bolton nomination say a lot more about the weakness of our intelligence bureaucracy than the Bolton candidacy itself:

Public service — at least when it's being done right — involves a lot of debating and disputing, sometimes with people one doesn't necessarily like personally, sometimes with those one admires but believes to be profoundly wrong on some issue or another. When the stakes are high, as they are in national security, disagreements can get downright heated . . . Bill Clinton, reputed to have a meteoric temper, was once reported to have snapped at HUD Secretary Donna Shalala for criticizing his indiscretions, [and] another media favorite, Senator John McCain, snapped at Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during hearings on the Abu Ghraib scandal.

On another issue, George Will says the younger generation treats print media like Oldsmobiles: something for old people.

In an essay on the British welfare state, Theodore Dalrymple shows how British collectivism was an increasingly popular theory before World War II and how current British socialism (read: the NHS) is a misbegotten legacy of the collectivist necessities engendered by the war. Speaking of a misbegotten socialist remnant, in the same issue of City Journal that Dalrymple's essay appears, you'll also find Nicole Gelinas' prescription for fixing the taxpayer sinkhole that is the NYC transit system.

And finally for now, a tragedy in Japan: a train derailment that killed more than 50 people and injured more than 400.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Yanks still awful

It is now official: Jaret Wright is the worst free agent pitcher signing since . . . Chan Ho Park. But Park actually pitched well and Wright was again horrendous before leaving the game today with a shoulder injury.

Here is where the Yankees went in the tank: in 2002 the Yanks traded Ted Lilly and some dross (Jason Arnold, John-Ford Griffin) to Oakland; the A's moved Carlos Pena, Franklyn German and Jeremy Bonderman to Detroit, the Tigers shipped Jeff Weaver to the Yanks. Weaver was a decent pitcher on a crap team; Lilly had been a decent pitcher on a good team and had less than 1/4 the price tag. Lilly could also pitch in high-pressure games in NY (his best outing is still a one-hitter loss to the 2001 M's in Seattle against Freddy Garcia and Seattle's ton of overachievers) and gives the RedSawx fits (9 shutout innings in the 2003 ALDS). So the Yanks gave up a future #3 caliber starter who came cheap for a potential #2 whose contract had huge salary escalations.

Weaver was a washout. Poor enough in 2002 to be banished to the 'pen in the playoffs; awful enough in '03 to be shipped out. This time to the Dodgers for Kevin Brown. Brown is expensive, inconsistent and often-injured. He had a great '03 campaign in LA (pitcher's park, NL) and was OK until his first injury spate in NY. Thereafter, he was an unmitigated failure.

In the offseason, the Yanks had no takers for Brown, so they're stuck with his contract. He stinks, but he has hope: he has actually pitched well after his early shellings this year so if he can start the game warmed up, he could be acceptable.

The Yanks had an $8 million option to keep Jon Lieber, the man who went 7-1 down the stretch last year, was the Yanks' second-best pitcher in the playoffs and actually baffled the RedSawx even before Lieber locked in and had that great stretch run. Lieber could pitch in NY. Once the Mets set the elevated market of $7,000,000/season for #3-#4 quality starters, the Yanks had two options: go for a younger pitcher at the 7m/yr mark or exercise Lieber's option. They took the first choice and it has been a disaster. Our friend Chris often told us last year that we'd like Jon Lieber and he was right. Then he said we'd regret losing him, and Chris is 2-for-2. The Phillies are happy with their signing.

Here is the problem: the Yankees cannot distinguish need from preference. That is, Brian Cashman cannot do so. Thus, their desire to get Arod led to the monster trade with the Rangers even after it became obvious that the RedSawx would not get him. Thus, the Yanks coughed up a very good young pitcher with appreciable upside for a pseudo-established starter in Weaver -- a trade that made no real sense at the time and is even worse in retrospect.

The Yanks also cannot distinguish recent history from track record. Thus, the Yanks paid ridiculous money to Steve Karsay in the 2001-02 offseason for a man whose injury history was in the accident-waiting-to-happen category. Thus, the Yanks picked up soft-tossing Chris Hammond after a one-season freak result of a 0.95 ERA. Thus, the Yanks signed Wright.

This year's team is 7-11 (3-3 since Mount Steinbrenner rumbled) and if they win tomorrow they'll have the same 8-11 record they did last year after Boston came through the Stadium and whitewashed the Yanks. But this year's team is worse: only 5 times in 18 games have the Yanks held their opponents under 5 runs (5-0 record, 2-11 otherwise). The pitchers don't battle the hitters sharply, the hitters are having poor at-bats, the bullpen is offal. Even in getting smacked the last two times against Bawstin last April (3-2 in 12 innings, 2-0), they fought hard -- Brown and the relief corps held the Sawx to 1-21 with RISP in that extra inning game; Javy Vazquez pitched very well on three-days' rest in the 2-0 loss. This team doesn't have even that much fight (Moooooooooooose nearly choking a 4-run lead Thursday, Wright barely getting through the fifth with a 13-run lead last Monday).

Early in the college hoops season I said to myself that Syracuse didn't have IT -- the Orange's weak effort, lack of muscle and lack of desire against Ok. State convinced me that the team lacked an intangible need to win. These Yanks have that same problem. And if it continues, the team will end up with different leadership in the front office next year.

Next for Brit Profs: spreading blood libels

The British AUT -- its leading group of professionals -- voted to boycott Haifa University and Bar-Ilan University, the first such boycott of Israeli universities by a Western professoriat.


Clintonian corruption -- where's the MSM on this?

Here's the lead from the NY Sun's report that scoops the mainstream press:

A New Orleans political consultant who is Senator Kennedy's brother-in-law, Raymond Reggie, has been operating in Democratic circles for the last three years as an undercover informant for the FBI, sources close to the matter said yesterday.

At a federal court hearing yesterday morning, Reggie, 43, who organized fund-raisers for President and Mrs. Clinton, pleaded guilty to two felony charges, bank fraud and conspiracy. Prosecutors described check-kiting and loan fraud schemes he operated involving three Louisiana banks, but they did not publicly detail his cooperation with the government.

The New York Sun reported yesterday that an unnamed witness with ties to a prominent political figure has been involved in recent federal investigations of campaign fund-raising violations, including a probe into alleged financial misreporting in Mrs. Clinton's bid for the Senate in 2000. The informant, described in court papers only as a "confidential witness," was part of an FBI plan to secretly audiotape conversations with political operatives, including a well-known person who prosecutors said was seeking to funnel donations from foreigners to federal campaigns.

We've noted Clintonian corruption before, including here and here.

Will Collier's comment is pretty much on target:

I almost figured it was a put-on. I mean, it's got 'punchline' written all over it: Ted Kennedy's brother-in-law pleads guilty to political corruption related to Hillary Clinton's campaign, it's revealed that he's been a secret informant to the FBI for years, and oh, by the way, he's also under investigation for trying to lure young girls into his car using a fake police light. But it's not a joke--it's a real story.

* * *
But funny thing--you can't find it much of anywhere. It's nowhere to be seen at, even on the Politics page. It's not on the front of the New York Times website, and the only mention within the site is a canned AP story.

Silent complacency by the MSM in the face of Democratic corruption -- the No-Shock Award winner of the week.

Friday, April 22, 2005

East Asia or Eurasia?

I wrote about the escalating brouhaha between China and Japan here. Here is the latest installment.

For those of you who remember Orwell's 1984, the government of Oceania often switched the identity of the 'Great Enemy' between 'East Asia' and 'Eurasia'. After every switch, the official 'historians' would have to scramble to make sure history was thoroughly and completely changed.

The actions of the leaders of People's Republic of China with regard to Japan is eerily Orwellian.

Rot in Hell, Vladimir Lenin

Today is Earth Day. For those of you counting along at home, the Earth is now 5,000,002,005 or something in that range.

Today is also the day that Nikita Khruschev established as Lenin Day -- the celebration of the birthday of Vladimir Lenin. (Spartacus Schoolnet, a good online resource, says he was born April 10, 1870; Khruschev's declaration and general acceptance is April 22, 1870). Think there's a connection? According to Lowell Ponte (see link in title), there is:

One of the self-identified "founders" of Earth Day, Bay Area activist John McConnell, has written that in 1969 he proposed to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors a new holiday to be called Earth Day on the first day of spring, the Equinox, around March 21. But, he writes, in 1970 local anti-Vietnam War and Environmental Teach-in activists "who were planning a one-time event for April 22, also decided to call their event Earth Day."

And what was this unnamed "one-time event" in 1970? It was the 100th birthday celebration for Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, known to history as Lenin, a pen name he might have coined from Siberia’s Lena River. He was the patron saint of the North Vietnamese Communists such as Ho Chi Minh that America was fighting.

Benedictus feline

And now, a fluffy entry.

Seems the Pope has a soft spot for kitties. Click the link.

And Pope Benedict XVI's brother looks just like His Holiness!

Retirement of the self-aggrandizing

Sen. Jim Jeffords (D-Daschle) is retiring when his term ends in 2006, citing ill health. Jeffords is the Vermont "Republican" who switched sides, became an "independent" and voted with the Democrats, thereby turning a 50-50 split (with VP Cheney breaking the deadlock) into 50+1/49 in the Dems' favor. He was hailed for his bravery and courage, then complained when the Dems didn't love him quite as much as he'd hoped (especially in 2002 when the Republicans re-took the Senate) and the Republicans scorned him. Mark Steyn wrote a superb piece shredding Jeffords in the June 6, 2001 issue of The Spectator (UK). Here are voluminous excerpts because Steyn doesn't keep his archives on his website:

‘Jim’s a rock star now!’ raved one local politician of the decaff-latte persuasion as Senator Jeffords (R. -- wait a minute, D. -- no, for the moment, allegedly I-Vt.) brushed past and a cheering throng swept us into the packed lobby of the Radisson Hotel (ah, the charms of small-town Vermont country inns). Jim, who normally looks as if someone’s twisting a pineapple up his bottom, seemed eerily relaxed, enjoying his new-found eminence as the world’s most famous obscure senator.

But I don’t think he’s a rock star. He’s more Peter Tork from the Monkees, if you can imagine Peter flouncing off in a huff and joining the Partridge Family. Just over a week ago, Jim Jeffords was an amiable goof, whose three-decade ‘Republican’ voting record read like a guy who’s holding the road map upside down – he voted against Reagan’s tax cut but for Hillary’s health plan, against Clarence Thomas but for partial-birth abortion. This is what we in the media call ‘a force for moderation’. But it took a most immoderate act to secure Jim his place in history: in quitting his party, he’s ended the GOP’s hold on America’s longest continuously held Senate seat – Republican for 140 years. Better yet, he’s brought a dash of Westminster horse-trading, a touch of Italian coalition politics to Washington: for the first time in US history, control of the Senate is passing from one party to another without anything so tiresome as an election.

The constitutional propriety of this has mostly gone unremarked. In Burlington, a leathery old plaid-clad lesbian lectured me about Bush’s ‘illegitimacy’ and the Supreme Court’s ‘post-election coup’. But, if it’s wrong to install Dubya in the White House through one vote from an ‘ideological’ judge, surely it’s wrong to install Tom Daschle in the Senate Majority office through one vote from a senator peeved because Bush didn’t invite him to the White House ‘Teacher of the Year’ reception, even though the winning teacher was a Vermonter.

* * *
For my part, I only wish the Right were as tough as the other crowd. Last week, before Jeffords flew the coop, the Democrats were keeping the oldest Republican senator, Strom Thurmond, on the floor hour after hour in one frivolous roll call after another, declining to let him ‘pair’ with a Democrat and so retire early. The genial old sex fiend is 98 and as hot for the gals as ever. But ever since the election the media have been running a ghoulish Strom deathwatch: all it would take is a particularly nubile intern to come jogging bra-less round the Capitol and the 50-50 Senate would belong to the Democrats [in 2001, South Carolina's governor, who would appoint Thurmond's successor, was a Democrat -- TKM]. Last week, as they put the 1948 Segregationist candidate for president through 18-hour days of pointless procedural mischief, it was as if Minority Leader Tom Daschle and his troops had decided they’d waited long enough for ol’ Strom to kick off, and it was time to hasten the process. On the Monday, some of the old boy’s Republican colleagues were worried that he wouldn’t last the night. You gotta hand it to those Dems: there’s a party that knows how to play hardball. They don’t just tear up your Teacher of the Year invite, they measure you up for the Coffin of the Year competition.

No one’s taken a keener interest in Strom’s health than Jim Jeffords. The November election had left one otherwise unimportant man a window of opportunity, which wouldn’t last for ever: Jeffords figured that, if Strom did keel over, Daschle would take charge of the Senate and owe Jim nothing; he’d be just another out-of-work GOP committee chairman. The Republican establishment in Washington claims not to have been aware that Jeffords was checking out until last Tuesday, which is very probably true given the general doziness with which Trent Lott and co. have presided over the Senate. On the other hand, my friend Tom, who’s currently painting my house and goes drinking with a tattooist who’s well-connected in Vermont Republican circles, told me three months ago that Jeffords was planning to quit the GOP. That sounds more like it.

. . . Even if you had no idea that he belonged to the GOP’s ‘moderate’ wing, his campaign ads always suggested a certain sheepishness about his party: he was ‘proud’, he told Vermonters during November’s campaign, to have received the support of so many ‘Independents, Democrats and Republicans’ – this last word mumbled sotto voce, like a schoolboy asking the pharmacist for condoms. You run into him everywhere in Vermont – county fairs, that sort of thing – everywhere, that is, except Republican party events, which he pretty much stopped going to because he always got booed.

Indeed, the one good thing about his belated formal abandonment is that Vermonters can no longer cite their Congressional delegation as a perfect embodiment of the state’s ‘diversity’: one Republican senator (Jim), one Democratic senator (Patrick Leahy) and one Independent Socialist congressman (Bernie Sanders). In practice, this theoretical ‘diversity’ resulted in a remarkable homogeneity: all three vote pretty much the same way on pretty much everything – that’s to say, with the Democrats. Nonetheless, in his speech at the Radisson, after noting that Vermont was the first state to abolish slavery and that its per-capita death toll in the Civil War was higher than any other state, Jim couldn’t resist claiming to be acting in the same long tradition of ‘principled’ ‘independence’ by his courageous act of stiffing his party and going ‘independent’ after first taking the precaution of ensuring that the Democrats would reserve a powerful committee chairmanship for him.

* * *
That the least surprising self-outing since George Michael declared he was gay should cause such havoc is principally the fault of Republican leaders going back 15 years. Not for the first time, the GOP’s Senate backslappers called it wrong, and the fellows on the ground got it right. On 24 April 1984, the Republican Town Caucus of Kirby, Vt (population 347) unanimously adopted the following resolution:
‘Whereas Congressman James M. Jeffords has compiled a voting record of the sort one would expect from a fellow who can’t pour maple sap out of a boot, even with the instructions printed on the heel,’ they began, ‘therefore be it resolved by the Kirby Town Caucus that the true Republicans of this town would cross hell on a rotten rail before they would vote for him again.’

But clubby Washington knew better. In 1988, when Congressman Jeffords decided to run for the Senate, Bob Dole and stiff-necked Mormon Orrin Hatch endorsed him in the primary, even though it was already clear that, whatever his other charms, Jeffords was no Republican, and never would be. And, as no incumbent senator has ever been defeated in Vermont, that’s all the more reason for not giving the seat to an obvious time bomb. LBJ used to say of J. Edgar Hoover and others that it was better to have them inside the tent pissing out than outside pissing in. But the Senate Republicans let Jeffords in the tent and he still wound up pissing all over them. Last year the GOP establishment assured disgusted party volunteers that no matter how offensive Jim’s votes were – he voted with Clinton 80 per cent of the time – the only vote that mattered was the one he cast to keep the Republicans in the Senate leadership. In the last of many disservices to the Vermont GOP, Jeffords last week nullified that vote, too . . . A vain pliable boob who repudiated even his last residual pledge to his party for the most frivolous reasons is hailed as a giant of political integrity. God help us if that’s true.

* * *
The Republicans are now deep in recriminations over ‘Who lost Jeffords?’ But the real question is: ‘Who cares?’ As Lott, Hatch et al. have demonstrated, the GOP isn’t cut out to run the Senate so it’s for the best they no longer have to pretend they can . . . after all the billions they blew trying to keep Jeffords nominally in line over the years, surely even those dopey Republican Senate big shots must have learned an important lesson about letting the Trojan horse hang around to become one of the biggest nags in the stable.

That last paragraph shows that some things just haven't changed.

Stinking less?

The Yanks' bullpen bailed out the Mooooooooooooooooooose yesterday after he nearly blew a 4-run lead and coughed up 6 hits in his final 1.1 innings of work. A pat on the back to Tom Gordon, who did his job well for once and, quite importantly, struck out the last two men he faced.

Now it's the Rangers at the Stadium, with Ranger-lunch Kevin Brown (ERA > 8 against them last year), super-stiff-to-date Jaret Wright and the-haircut-made-me-average Randy Johnson.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Sanctimonious Scum

The French define what it means to be pandering, dictator-coddling, anti-Democratic scum. Strong words? Yes. Here's why:

During a state visit to China, French Premier Raffarin threw support behind a law allowing China to attack Taiwan and continued to push for a lift of the EU arms embargo.

At the outset of a three-day visit to China, French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said he supported Beijing's "anti-secession" law on Taiwan, and vowed to keep pushing for an end to an EU arms embargo that could open the door for Paris to sell weapons to the Asian giant.

Raffarin also signed or finalized major business deals with Beijing valued at around $3.2 billion (2.4 billion euros).
"The anti-secession law is completely compatible with the position of France," he said in a joint press conference with his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao (photo).

At the same time, he vowed that his government would continue to push for the lifting of what he called the "anachronistic" and "discriminatory" arms embargo against China. The embargo contradicts the current "strategic partnership" between the EU and China, he added.

During his visit to Beijing on Thursday, China Eastern Airlines and Shenzhen Airlines signed a deal with the European consortium Airbus to buy a total of 10 A319/A320 planes. And China Southern completed an agreement on its purchase of five A380 super jumbos.

The deals were signed between the carriers and the European consortium's vice-president, Philippe Delmas, who is in China accompanying Raffarin on his visit.
France has lobbied hard for Airbus sales in China, and its close political ties with Beijing appear to have helped smooth the way for the deals.
"This is a very big market ... in the first four months of the year it grew by 40 percent over the same period last year," Delmas told news agencies.

Only $3.2 billion? The French are cheap, sanctimonious scum.

HT: Instapundit

Bolton: Melody Townsel Debunking

Melody Townsel, who helped found the Dallas chapter of Mothers Opposing Bush, levied accusations against John Bolton that Bolton chased her down the hallway of her hotel room in Moscow and pounded on her door. Senators Biden, Boxer, have trumpeted these accusations to claim that Bolton is temperamentally unfit to be UN Ambassador.

Jayant S. Kalotra, the owner of IBTCI, the firm for which Bolton and Townsel (as an employee of a subcontractor) worked wrote a letter to the Foreign Relations Committee calling Townsel's recollection of events into serious dispute.

NRO editor Rich Lowry spoke with Kalotra:

He says that he was “astounded” to see her story in the newspaper. “I had never heard of that.” He says, “Mr. Bolton had never spoken to any of our employees in Moscow or Washington even firmly. He was a very correct individual to work” with. More: “I told him he would follow the rules of IBTCI and he was very respectful of that.” Asked if he believes Townsel, he says, “I don't. It's a small company and we hear of these things. I didn't know or hear of anything like that.”

More corroboration from the firm that hired Townsel:

Black says that “during that time she never uttered John Bolton's name to me. If that had happened [the hotel incident], I couldn't imagine that she wouldn't have said something given the minor nature of her complaints that she did share.” Black notes he is also friends with Bolton who surely would have told him had he had a run-in with one of his employees. Black sums up: “It doesn't make sense.”

A bit more debunking:

But this former officer of ICBTC doesn't think that Bolton would have over-lapped with Townsel in the Moscow hotel at the time he was involved in the investigation of her conduct: “It is difficult for me to understand. It doesn't make sense.”

Kalotra, apparently, has interestingly been a big Democratic supporter.

Tidbits 21Apr05

Some good stuff around today:

1. James Taranto of Opinion Journal takes Senator Voinovich to task for rolling on the Bolton nomination by reminding him of how he lost his temper when his plane was delayed due to the arrival of Air Force One. Even better, Taranto suggests Plan B. Defeat Bolton? Fine. Let's put up GIULIANI.

2. Jay Nordlinger has some pearls today in his Impromptus column:
- the Democrats think Bolton should serve the UN, when he needs to serve the United States and its foreign policy.
- exposes the patrician-looking Pat Leahy of Vermont as vicious and nasty
- on the estate tax: But the best line of the debate belonged to a Republican, Rep. Kenny Hulshof of Missouri:

“The death of a family member should not be a taxable event, period.”

3. The Corner has a brilliant Tina Brown quote:

"For those of us who came to Manhattan precisely because you're guaranteed never to meet anyone who has read the ‘Left Behind’ series, America's much-celebrated spiritual revival can have its trying moments."

4. Provocative thought of the day: In response to this horrible story, a Corner reader proposes a novel way to keep track of sex offenders -- facial tattoos.

French 58-42 AGAINST EU Constitution

according to a just released poll. Gee this French-inspired Constitution must be really bad!

The Pope: You mean he's a CATHOLIC?

James Lileks (above), Gerard Baker (see here) and Mark Steyn all are completely content with the fact that Pope Benedict XVI is a Catholic.

Lileks said this: "I am always amazed by people who want the church to accommodate their thoughts, their new beliefs, their precarious and ingenious rationales, instead of ripping themselves from its bosom and seeking a congregation that doesn't make them feel like a heretic banging their head on the doors of St. Peter's."

Baker's pithiness is summed thusly: "If you, as the papacy does, claim direct authority, through your 264 predecessors from the ministry of St Peter, who, the Gospels tell us was inaugurated into that ministry by the Son of God while he was present on earth, is it really possible to take anything other than a bit of a traditionalist view when it comes to doctrinal matters?"

And Steyn in an interview with Hugh Hewitt (thanks to Radioblogger for transcribing these -- a fine public service if ever there was) noted: "no one needs a religion that merely licenses your appetites. And this is what the guys like Frank Griswold [Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church who consecrated an openly gay reverend] and the Episcopal Church don't seem to realize. You know, the churches that are complaining about this fellow [the Pope], are the churches that the New York Times want the Catholic Churches to be like. These are the churches in decline, and frankly, I think a lot of these critics have made themselves look actually rather ridiculous in being unable to see it like this. If you want a gay, abortionist church, found one of your own. There's nothing in Catholic theology of the last 2,000 years to suggest that they'd be cool with that."

Our national enfeeblement

George Will touts the new book from Christina Hoff Sommers and Sally Satel, One Nation Under Therapy: How the Helping Culture Is Eroding Self-Reliance.

The Monk is a big fan of Sommers and has great respect for Dr. Satel, who has written extensively on the malignant influences of political correctness and postmodern claptrap on the medical profession.

Honest folks at the UN?

Yes and no is the answer. The honest people WERE Robert Parton and Miranda Duncan, two of the three senior investigators for the Volcker Committee that is investigating the UN's Oil-for-Food swindle. They resigned because they have the sense to know that when a program is run by and through the office of the Secretary General, any Commission finding that only mildly criticizes his failure to crack down on his son's conflict of interest re: representation of Cotecna is bollocks.

To its credit, however, the Volcker Committee reproached Annan for declaring that he was exonerated and Mark Pieth, one of the three Committee members, disputed that at the time Annan made his exoneration declaration.

HT: The Cap'n; credit to Roger Simon, who beat everyone to the story.

Gleaning the inside story of Benedict XVI's election

Daniel J. Wakin draws out as much detail as he can to give the inside story of Josef Ratzinger's election as Pope Benedict XVI. An interesting synopsis and solid job considering that Wakin's best possible sources, the College of Cardinals members themselves, are sworn to secrecy regarding the proceedings.

Carl Pavano: A temporary answer?

The biggest question in some minds for the Yankees' starting rotation this season was Carl Pavano's adjustment to the AL. He's not a pure power pitcher, he had the lowest K/IP ratio of the Yankees' three offseason acquisitions, he was coming semi-home (he's from Connecticut, his parents are Yankees fans and he was a RedSawx farmhand who was part of the Pedro trade) and he's the only one of Johnson/Wright/Pavano who never pitched in the AL.

Right now, he's the Yanks' best pitcher. Pavano turned in the Yanks' first quality start since the THIRD game of the season (8 IP, 1 ER) and he has two of the Yanks' paltry four total QS. Even in his loss to the O's last weekend, he didn't pitch too badly (the defense honked). So he's 1-2 (the other loss was the game he left after getting drilled with a liner through the box) with a sub-3.00 ERA -- at least someone hasn't wholly stunk thus far.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Remarkable - Protestant reaction to Benedict XVI

NRO's The Corner has a couple of fascinating posts about B16; essentially Protestants seem much more thrilled than some Catholics at Ratzinger's elevation.

"I think conservative/orthodox/confessing Protestants are all bubbly today about Benedict XVI because our Catholics brothers are showing the mainline Protestant denominations what it means to be faithful. It is now the so-called "moderates" of these churches who have long been victorious in forcing the relaxation of doctrine and church teachings under the banner of modernization who look "behind the times." They now seem like an old pair of marbled bell-bottoms rather than the cutting edge of the future of Christianity they thought they were. For some denominations, it may be too late, but there are pockets of orthodoxy that are thriving even in these dying denominations. They are celebrating with conservative Catholics this week.

As a Confessional Lutheran in one of those pockets of orthodoxy, I must confess to being enchanted by this new GERMAN Pope. What would Martin Luther say?"


"The funny thing around my office yesterday was that the Catholics were dejected by Josef Ratzinger's election, but we non-Catholic evangelicals were high-fiving each other (at least figuratively). What a bizarre state of affairs. Though we Lutherans reformed ourselves right out of the Catholic Church a few hundred years ago, I like seeing people stick to their religious guns. If you don't believe it, don't defend it, but if you believe it, defend it to the death."

I also saw an interview with Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League (who was interestingly raised as a Catholic by a Polish nanny during WWII) who endorsed Ratzinger's selection.


A Vet's reaction to Jane Fonda

To paraphrase Chris Rock, I'm not saying I'd do the same thing . . . but I understand.

Benedict XVI and the real "hard liners"

Jonathan V. Last compiled an extensive list of columnist and editorial reaction to the election of Josef Ratzinger as Pope. The commentary is a cavalcade of solipsism, stupidity and the same type of postmodern rubbish that Pope Benedict XVI rightly railed against in his homily Monday night.

Yesterday, The Monk noted the reactions just on CBS's Habemus Papem coverage: Ratzinger is a "hard-liner". He's a "conservative" and "doctrinaire". He does not brook dissent among the bishops. He adheres to the "strict" teachings of the Bible. He is unlikely to "modernize" the church. He is a "polarizing" figure whose election is somewhat surprising given his "conservative" views.

What a pile of offal. Only the ignorant Western media viewing the Catholic election through the prism of its liberalism and solipsism would believe that the new Pope is an upset winner, out of the mainstream or under some nebulous duty to modernize the church to fit Western elite views on abortion, contraception and homosexuality. The Reuters lead paragraph exemplifies the Western liberal outlook: "German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the strict defender of Catholic orthodoxy for the past 23 years, was elected Pope on Tuesday despite a widespread assumption he was too old and divisive to win election."

Whose assumptions? The liberal Western media's. After all Pope John XXIII was 77 when he was elected in 1958 and had long exceeded his "life expectancy". He had some impact in his less than five-year long papacy because he "convoked the Roman Synod, established the Commission for the Revision of the Code of Canon Law and summoned the Second Vatican Council."

And Ratzinger is divisive primarily to the Western liberal Catholics, not the College of Cardinals that had to elect him with a supermajority (67%), and from whom the Pope had already obtained assurances of at least 60 votes prior to the conclave that elected him. As a Catholic Church following commentator noted on CBS yesterday, after his homily (and before his election), the Cardinals gravitated toward Josef Ratzinger as if they wished to receive his blessing. That doesn't sound divisive from here.

As I said a couple of weeks ago about John Paul II:
The Pope treated the Catholic Canon, to which he was an enormous contributor, with respect and to a large degree the force of law. He did not seek wiggle room, did not alter the law to match the morality of the times, and did not seek to accommodate the wavering Catholic. Instead, he did what he should have done: stated the moral and theological position of the Church and said it is the duty of Catholics to conform to it, not the Church's duty to conform to them. Whether you agree or not, the Pope was entirely correct to hold to those principles of his faith despite the changing times. Those who were disappointed that the Church did not modify morality to meet modernity have only themselves to blame.

And this principle is no less true of the new Pope: he MUST and he SHOULD proclaim the position of the church in a forceful manner and ensure that the morality of the church remains strong. The Pope has no duty to change the Church's views to suit gay Catholics like Andrew Sullivan or Western commenters like Rema Rahman. The notion that adhering to the same 2,000+ year-old teachings on homosexuality, conception, value of life and marriage that form many of the underpinnings of Christendom means that the Pope is "doctrinaire" or "hardline" says more about the person who utters such nonsense than it does about the Pope or the Church. Similarly, complaining that the Pope does not tolerate dissent is pure foolishness: the Catholic Church is not a democracy and is not designed to be one. Jonah Goldberg delineates the universe of these asinine solipsists too narrowly when he claims that these reactions are a product of American left-wing media foolishness.

Instead, as Anne Applebaum notes, the Pope's greatest challenges will come from postmodern, postdemocratic and Christophobic Europe:

Within hours of his election a BBC profile had already speculated that the new pope had honed his rhetorical skills in Nazi Germany (he deserted the Wehrmacht at age 15) while some on the German left were describing his election as a "catastrophe." I expect we'll hear far worse insults in the next few days.

The Catholic scholar George Weigel calls this phenomenon "Christophobia" (a phrase he borrowed from the South African-born American legal scholar J.H.H. Weiler, who happens to be Jewish). Weigel began investigating the phenomenon after being struck by the European Union's fierce resistance to any mention of the continent's Christian origins in the draft versions of the new, and still unratified, European constitution. In his recent book, "The Cube and the Cathedral," Weigel lists the many sources of this very powerful, very profound and very European -- as opposed to American -- antipathy[:] . . . the experience of the Holocaust, which many European intellectuals concluded was the logical outcome of Christian bigotry through the centuries; the disappointment still felt among European leftists over the collapse of European communism, which many "blame" in part on the church; the legacy of the 1968 rebellions, which, there as here, opposed traditional authority of all kinds; and Europeans' tendency to associate the church with the "right" in general and Christian Democratic political parties in particular. To this I would add one more: Europe's present associations of "religiosity" with "America," and in particular with George W. Bush, who still scores reliably high negatives in opinion polls across the continent.

Simply stated, the real hard-liners are the left-wingers who cry wolf at the deviation of any public persona from their standard viewpoints. The fact that the Catholic Church did not elect a postmodernist liberal who would allow abortion, homosexuality and gay marriage is not a problem for the Church -- it is being true to what it sees as a higher authority than the caprice of modern man.