Monday, February 28, 2005

Oscar(r) thoughts

Yeah, this is late but the Monk is a full-service blogger.

I watched part of the Oscars and I thought the best thing was Chris Rock's introductions of the presenters ("the only woman to breast-feed an Apple" for Gwenyth Paltrow; commenting on Tim Robbins' political bent, "a couple of old Fockers" for Hoffman/Streisand, etc.). Monologue = ok, occasionally harsh, occasionally limp. Other stuff: no surprises in any of the winners, no undeserving winners either (unlike Fellowship of the Ring getting shafted over and over in 2002) and no real close calls other than Morgan Freeman over Jamie Foxx in the Supporting Actor category.

Low point: the delay by the audience in cheering for Reagan when the acknowledgement of the recently deceased (since the prior broadcast) progression began. I think that there was actually prompting to cheer the Gipper. Disgusting leftist dopes. I would've been standing on my chair clapping my hands red.

But two quick notes: (1) Adam Durnitz (Counting Crows' lead singer) looks like a farking carpenter's assistant from South Boston with Sideshow Bob's hair. Yet he has lived your dream, boys: he dated Jennifer Aniston for a couple of years in the early 90s. Dang, I KNEW I should've learned guitar in grade school. (2) Clint Eastwood is too cool for words. Here's why: he shot Million Dollar Baby (principal photography, no reshoots to my knowledge) in 37 days and had only one 12-hour day in the bunch according to Hilary Swank's interview with Letterman (I think; might've been Conan, but Conan screwed up that interview so badly I doubt he's the one who elicited that revelation). That's amazing considering the schedules, screw-ups, workloads, pressure, etc. that surrounds the average movie set. He knows what he wants; he gets it; it's good. Eastwood gets good to great performances out of his actors and tells the story well: Unforgiven, Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby. That's great directing.

Sleepin' on the job

UPDATE -- I originally posted this about midday, but I've since had time to do more than merely a quickie skim of Andy McCarthy's article and I think the Deacon's reaction to one aspect of McCarthy's column is more logical than McCarthy's analysis. Now, back to our show:

Sorry for the late posting, I had a bunch of good stuff to put up, but I got to work and one of the bosses pist me off so bad I could barely think straight. Then Blogger went in the tank (daily fark up) so I couldn't post. And Wongdoer has been busy too, hopefully repairing the damage George Soros is trying to do to the dollar.

Anyway, here are some things for your lunchtime (tea time, afternoon break time, etc.) reading.

First, Israel is preparing a hasbara -- information campaign -- to show how Syria is fomenting terrorism in Lebanon, Gaza, Iraq, etc. The Israelis claim that Syria is behind the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv last weekend and that they can prove it. Israel will also bring its charges to the UN Security Council seeking condemnation of the bombing itself. This is a nice tactic that will expose the hypocrisy and moral emptiness of the UN, but will do little else. And failing to whack Syria for its actions, if the Israelis do have proof of Syrian instigation (and I trust they do) will only allow the Syrians to think they can get away with it.

Second, two must reads from Opinion Journal: (a) this Victor Davis Hanson column discussing why the US can no longer rely on the flaccid Eurostates as strategic partners; and (b) this lead editorial on the case of Jose Medellin, a Mexican citizen on death row in Texas. Mexico complained to the International Court of Justice (aka, the World Court) and the ICJ held that the US has to review the death sentences of all Mexican nationals on death row to ensure compliance with the Geneva Convention. This is rubbish, and there's a fight in the government on how to handle the US's amicus brief before the Supreme Court of the US in Medellin's personal appeal of his death sentence.

Third, you should always read your Andy McCarthy. Today he rips the Democrats over their meddling with Bush's judicial nominations process.

That should get you started.

Mugged by reality

Cinnamon Stillwell, a woman from Marin County, California (one-time home of American Talibanite John Walker Lindh) was mugged by reality and became a 9-11-01 Republican. And here's her description of the ultimate hypocrisy, one that still rankles the Monkette2B:
But more than anything, it was the left's hypocrisy when it came to the war on terrorism that made me turn rightward after 9/11. I remember, back in my liberal days, being fiercely opposed to the Taliban and its brutal treatment of women. Even then, I felt that Afghanistan should immediately be liberated, as Malcolm X once said in another context, by any means necessary. But when it came time, it turned out that the left was mostly opposed to such liberation, whether of the Afghan people or of the Iraqis (especially if America and a Republican president were at the helm).

Read it all.

The 700 Club

I've been a Syracuse college hoops fan since I was 11. It's a strange story but shows either my loyalty or lack of sense or both.

I was a sports fan from the time I started paying attention to the pros. So I always had to have a team in whatever sport. Many of them were inherited from my Dad: Yanks, Giants, Knicks. Another is one I got my Dad to like: the Islanders (and good timing too, just before they reeled off the 4 Cups in 1980-83). I picked Penn State because they were on TV locally every Monday with highlights before the MNF game. And when my Dad groused that I should pick a college hoops team from NY I said, "Is Syracuse in NY? Then I'll pick them."

Twenty-four years later and I'm still a diehard. It took 16 years to live down the loss to Indiana in the '87 title game (still hurts) and one freshman forward to completely amaze me.

This year, SU has been a bit disappointing because it's 0-4 against BC, Pitt and UConn and should have won the two home games in those four. But the season has one huge achievement, and will end up with three other important ones: Jim Boeheim's 700th career win and the graduation of Hakim Warrick, Craig Forth and Josh Pace.

Boeheim took a lot of heat for allegedly getting too little out of great players -- supposedly typified by SU's loss to Richmond in 1991, even though his players tended to become pros and graduated with decent frequency (not Notre Dame, but not Cincinnati either). Then, he caught it for not graduating players in the early '90s. But over the past 10 years, Boeheim has taken midlevel teams to good heights, graduated players, guided his players more actively, been the leader in the Coaches vs. Cancer fundraising program and finally reached the ultimate height of the profession. Congrats Coach Boeheim.

Here's an encomium from Bob Knight:
I think that what he has done is develop his own style of play, particularly from the defensive aspect of things with the zone, and has made it pay off in as many situations as often as anybody who's exclusively used a zone. He's stuck with it. I think that's a unique thing for a coach to have done. I don't think there are many coaches who develop a trademark of how they play.

And his team has been a team that has always played hard. Here's a team that's difficult to beat because they have been very well taught how to play the game. I've always enjoyed watching his teams play because they're set up in a unique way, and one of the things that is most impressive about any coach is someone who has set up a system and made it work. And he's done that.

Go Orange.

Yankee blogging

Our reader Petey, hereinafter "Reader No. 3" (see here for reference), wants to know when we're going to resume bitching about discussing the Yanks. Answer: soon. Once the games that do not count get started in earnest (i.e., the last 15 games before the ones that DO count), we'll probably start mentioning baseball and the Yanks' situation.

As for the most "pressing" issue: Honestly, Barry Bonds' huge head, Jose Canseco's injection history and Jason Giambi's unwillingness to say the word "steroid" have little interest for me. Yes, many players are and were juiced; NO, Mark McGuire was not a steroidal freak (he admitted taking andro, and he was always a big SOB); no, I'm not going to worry about its effects on the game other than the extent that the ridiculous power numbers from 1996-2002 alter Hall of Fame perceptions -- who's worthy, how impressive previous achievements were, etc.

And quite honestly, I'm still so pist at the Yanks for blowing the ALCS that I'm not going to get crazy about baseball just yet. Indeed, the fun of RedSawx misery and keeping the chowderheads down is lost and gone forever. Sigh. Still, as Wongdoer said, it's an acceptable price to pay for not having to say "President Kerry" from now until 2009 or beyond.

A risk of same-sex marriage

A key argument for the legalization of gay marriage is fairness and its a pretty compelling one. Why can't a gay couple do the same as a heterosexual couple? However, concentrating on the issue of fairness misses perhaps the most important issue. What happens if we set in motion events that could fundamentally alter the value of one of the most important societal constructs in history? Heterosexual marriage is far from perfect but what it ideally represents - a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman and their desire to raise a family in a nurturing environment is extraordinarily valuable.

David Frum, in the NRO, shows the effects of the legalization of gay marriage in Canada after a year.

Seven years ago, Andrew Sullivan and I conducted a fierce debate in Slate about same-sex marriage. Along the way, I hazarded this prediction:


"Andrew, three years after we permit gay marriage, it will be illegal for schools to send home printed forms with one blank for the mother's name and one blank for the father's."

Did I say three years? In Canada, it's taken barely one.

In the province of Ontario, the words "wife," "husband," "widow," and "widower" are now all to be stricken from the law. The words "mother" and "father" cannot be far behind.

Ontario's action is a reminder that same-sex marriage is not just the extension of an existing legal status to previously excluded persons. Same-sex marriage is a revolution in the definition of marriage for everyone - a revolution not just in law, but in consciousnessness.
...
Once we lose that knowledge, we lose the basic grammar of marriage. It is one more reminder that in the same-sex marriage debate, we are debating not marriage's change - but marriage's overthrow.

In fairness, gay couples should be permitted civil unions which confer the same financial benefits that traditional marriages enjoy but the fairness arguments pales against the prospect of altering and possibly diluting a fundamental bulwark of society as we know it.

Al-Qaqaa? What? Where?

Oh. The munitions dump in Iraq where allegedly some amount of high explosives were stolen.

Byron York at NRO rips the New York Times for its juvenile and shockingly obvious attempt to affect the outcome of the election with the Al Qaqaa story in the week leading up to Election Day.

...In all, in the eight days from October 25 to November 1, the Times published 16 stories and columns [several front page and extremely long, ed.] about Al Qaqaa, plus seven letters to the editor (all of which were critical of the Bush administration).

And then, abruptly, it stopped. In the four months since the election, the Times appears to have simply dropped the Al Qaqaa story, publishing nothing about the munitions dump and the supposedly critical issues it raised about the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq. After November 1, according to a search of the Nexis database, just one story in the Times, a November 29, 2004, piece by John Burns, has contained the words "Al Qaqaa," and that story did not concern the munitions issue.


Clearly, for the New York Times, Al-Qaqaa was only an issue for the purposes of preventing President Bush's re-election.

Tidbits 28February05

1. Harvey "C-minus" Mansfield is a Professor of Government and a titan at Harvard. He's legendary for single-handedly fighting grade inflation. He's takes on feminists in this Weekly Standard column.

2. Charles at LGF lambasts the silence of the Oscars about Theo van Gogh. Every year the Oscars does a nice salute to Hollywood veterans who have passed on. They should have featrued van Gogh.

3. Robert Reich, Clinton's former secretary of labor, defends Wal-mart. His thesis is simple and perfect. Who among us don't search for bargains? In the end that's what Wal-mart is all about. (Reich's remedy is a bit silly but the overall thrust of his argument is bang-on.)

4. Hates the Gates. The saffron colored Central Park exhibit has drawn generally rave reviews. Here is a counterpoint.

Fighting internal terrorism: the Irish version

Interesting article on an attempt by a Belfast Catholic family to break the IRA's code of silence after a bunch of its members killed an innocent man in a bar fight that the IRA members instigated.

Free Speech 1, Speech Codes 0.

Here is a press release I received by email from The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (The FIRE) -- a non-partisan civil rights group -- about how the students at the University of Alabama know more about free speech than their professors.
Students Fight Back: Free Speech Resolution Targets Faculty Push for Speech Code

TUSCALOOSA, Ala., February 28, 2005—In a remarkable display of intellectual independence and moral courage, the University of Alabama (UA) Student Senate last week passed a “free speech” resolution that directly opposes a “hate speech” resolution passed by UA’s Faculty Senate last fall. Recognizing that the faculty’s “hate speech” resolution was a thinly veiled call for a speech code, the students’ resolution urges the UA administration and faculty “to adopt policies that explicitly protect free speech for all students at the University of Alabama.” The students’ move comes after close consultation with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and follows an open letter FIRE sent to the UA community to protest the faculty’s proposed regulations.

“Last fall I expressed confidence that members of the UA community who realized the ramifications of the faculty’s policy would reject it,” remarked FIRE President David French. “In a bold act, the students have not only rejected the faculty’s proposal, but have also demanded that the university instead adopt policies that explicitly protect their rights to free speech.”

The Student Senate resolution, sent to UA President Robert Witt and Faculty Senate President John Mason, passed unanimously on February 24, 2005. Authored by Student Senator Pat Samples, the resolution states that “[f]ree speech is absolutely vital to the mission of any university, where new and often controversial ideas must be discussed openly and rationally in order to make advances in knowledge” and proclaims that “[b]y defending free speech for all students, one in no way condones any kind of hate or intolerance; [o]n the contrary, one is promoting tolerance of others despite their differences, especially their differences of opinion.” The student resolution also warned that adopting a speech code would be a legal liability for UA and would “greatly tarnish its public image.” The resolution’s call for free speech for all students directly opposes the Faculty Senate’s “hate speech” resolution passed last September.

UA’s Faculty Senate resolution, prompted by an incident between an outside comedian and a UA student at a university event in September 2004, recommended that UA officials “develop clear policies restricting any behavior which demeans or reduces an individual based on group affiliation or personal characteristics, or which promotes hate or discrimination, in any approved University program or activity, and that these policies be incorporated into any contract entered into by the University regarding participation in formal University programs.” In November, FIRE protested the Faculty Senate resolution with an open letter urging hundreds of faculty members, administrators, and student leaders to reject policies that could lead to arbitrary censorship of unpopular opinions.

“This is another resounding example of students’ leading the way in protecting basic American freedoms,” added French. “Let’s hope that university faculty members and administrators can learn from those they are supposed to be teaching.”

The Lebanese Revolution?

This just in from CNN: the pro-Syrian Lebanese government has resigned.
An estimated 50,000 people gathered Monday in Beirut's Martyr Square despite an order a day earlier by Lebanon's Interior Ministry for military forces to "use all necessary means" to make sure the demonstrations did not take place.

Earlier today, thousands of Lebanese protestors took to the streets to call for Syria to pull out of Lebanon, which it has occupied (and run into the ground) since 1976. The protests began, and increased, after Syrian backed terrorists killed former Lebanese PM (who was against Syrian occupation) Rafik Hariri.

The march of freedom continues.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Steyn v. Bay, round 2

Austin Bay has a fairly optimistic view of Old Europe's future: rejecting welfare statism, regaining independence from the EUrocracy, expanding and rallying behind NATO, etc.

Mark Steyn doesn't share that view, as we noted here, and neither do I. Today, Steyn reiterates his view that Old Europe is dying, and Bush's speech in Brussels was just like a paean to an ageing actress whose best days are far behind her. He also responds to Bay, in Bay's blog (linked in title).

Why I like New Europe

The US and UK saved the French from the Nazis 60 years ago, and the French elites still haven't forgiven us (this is in contrast with many of the actual French people outside of Paris, like those on the Atlantic coast). The Belgians still cannot accept the fact that their crimes in central Africa make Soviet gulags look hospitable. And the US and UK saved the Germans from themselves, and the Germans still cannot accept it.

But some countries both know the truth of subjugation and who helped them out of their shackles: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania (check out the number of those who have helped in Iraq). That's why its nice when The Monk reads this:
Thousands of Slovaks defied swirling snow and a bitter wind to wait for several hours to hear Mr Bush speak in the heart of their capital, Bratislava.

"We love him," said Arlena Turceanova, a 47-year-old lawyer, bursting with the pride felt by many Slovaks that Mr Bush chose their little country for his third and last stop. "He is president from a great country. It is wonderful that he comes here."

The Slovak prime minister, Mikulas Dzurinda, set the tone when he introduced Mr Bush to the crowd with an implicit comparison to the late Ronald Reagan, who devoted much of his presidency to combating and denouncing the Soviet Union. For the White House, it was a reassuring reminder that Mr Bush's stock remains high in New Europe, as Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, famously described the more recent East European members of the EU and Nato.

And even more important, the leaders of New Europe still have a geopolitical outlook that squares with reality, unlike Chirac, Schroder and much of the EUrocracy, as Slovak President Mikulas Dzurinda showed:
Mr. Dzurinda responded by telling the journalists, including one from CNN, that he was "shocked" to see media outlets like CNN and the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) showing "only American soldiers killing people. But nobody was able to show Saddam Hussein, who killed many, many thousands of Iraqi people."

"It was impossible to see a real picture of this regime," he lamented. "And the result is the public is one day strongly against Bush. 'Bush loves war,' he's 'new terrorist,' and so on and so on."

The prime minister predicted that it is "only a question of time when people in Slovakia, in Germany, in European countries, will understand more that this activity were necessary. And the world, without Saddam Hussein, is much more democratic than before."


HT: No Pasaran

Friday, February 25, 2005

NO SOCIALIZED MEDICINE PLEASE

A toddler in England has a number of lung infections and at the age of 1, the docs tell her family that she cannot EAT food because it goes straight from her esophagus to her lungs. So for seven years, the family watches the little girl like an eyrie of hawks to ensure she doesn't sneak a snack. She gets a feeder device that pumps foodlike substances directly into her stomach at regular intervals and has to wear a backpack to school with the contraption in it. Grandma said ENOUGH and sought other solutions.

The girl's family asked for financial help from her community because the girl's life was difficult AND she kept WANTING to eat real food. Ultimately, their generous neighbors helped the girl and her family fly to Stanford to be examined by specialists in Palo Alto.

Diagnosis? SHE'S FINE. Swallow food, food goes to stomach, just like normal child. All the proof necessary was a barium test that showed what happened when the girl swallowed the liquid.

The United Kingdom: first world finances, first world military, third-world medical system.

Another triumph for semi-free market medicine.

Afghanistan, Iraq, Venezuela

The United States' interest in policing its own backyard should be self-evident. Ever since President Monroe's declaration warning the European powers that the US would look unkindly upon their colonial escapades in Latin America (later called the "Monroe Doctrine"), the US has maintained vigilance over the actions of outside nations in Latin America and has also taken action to protect itself against threats from the South.

The Robert Novak column that Wongdoes linked below notes that there is a new threat to the United States and it is growing daily: the Hugo Chavez dictatorship in Venezuela. From the US failure to condemn the fraudulent Chavez retention election outcome last year to the Bush Administration's seeming ignorance of, or ignoring, Chavez's work with the FARC cocaine-running rebels in Colombia, the situation is getting progressively worse.

The Bush Administration has failed to take sufficient action against this communist totalitarian oil-funded dictator to our south, and has not been forceful with Chavez in the least. The Bush Administration also never sufficiently pushed for the appointment of Otto Reich to the State Department post it nominated him for in 2001 -- Bush withdrew the nomination primarily due to the strong opposition by Chris Dodd and John Kerry. Those Senators hated Reich because he befriended the Contras in the 1980s, denounced the communist Ortega (whom Kerry and Dodd loved) and was PROIVEN RIGHT in 1990 when the Nicaraguans had free elections and dumped their Sandinista slave-masters out of office.

Chavez hailed the Iraqi insurgents, makes common cause with Castro and is destabilizing the region to a degree that Castro and Daniel Ortega had only dreamed of reaching. Bush needs to clamp down on this man and make certain that Chavez knows that Stalinist insurgency and terrorist support under the US's own nose will not be tolerated.

Conniption causation alert!

No one is harder on those who sin than a convert who sins no more. Hence, former smokers who cannot stand being anywhere near people who smoke and anti-Leftists who used to be communists, like Whittaker Chambers.

David Horowitz is a case in point: he was a communist and radical in the 1960s, now he's a libertarian, free speech defender and anathema to the ivory tower liberalism that dominates academia and much of the Democratic party.

His new website is Discover the Network -- the groups and individuals who make up the American Left and the spiderweb of connections between those groups and people. He has a "guide" to the website here and admits that the website has made some mistakes and WILL correct those (he specifically notes the thumbnail biography of The Nation's Katrina Van den Heuvel and the corrections she requested, with which he complied).

Interesting stuff.

Snarlin' Arlen Backsliding

Arlen Specter appears to be backsliding...he seems less than enthusiastic about pushing President Bush's renominated slate through the Judiciary Committee and is mumbling ambivalently about the nuclear option. The Corner has it covered.

From WaPo:

He said he is not sure Republicans have enough votes in the full Senate to confirm appellate court nominee William G. Myers III, but he will formally restart the contest by conducting a committee hearing Tuesday.
***
Speaking of the impasse over judges, Specter said that "if you trace it back historically, both parties are at fault." A Democratic-controlled Senate held up many of President Ronald Reagan's nominees, he said, and a GOP-controlled Senate used stalling tactics to block many of President Bill Clinton's nominees. "We exacerbated the problem," Specter said.

WHAT??!! Horse MANURE. See here.

More recently, he said, Democrats used filibusters and Bush made interim appointments of federal judges during congressional recesses, "which is a little unheard-of when the Senate has made a rejection of nominees. So each side ratcheted it up, ratcheted it up, ratcheted it up, until you have a situation today where . . . no one wants to back down and no one wants to lose face."

Specter said he does not know whether Frist can muster 51 votes to deploy the "nuclear option" -- which would not be subject to a filibuster -- and declined to say how he would vote. "I'm going to exercise every last ounce of my energy to solve this problem without the nuclear option," he said. "If we have a nuclear option, the Senate will be in turmoil and the Judiciary Committee will be hell."

Let's remember that the 'nuclear option' that the Dems have tried to label a possible rule change applies only changing the number of votes necessary to a majority from a supermajority to bring the confirmation matter to the full Senate. This is not a constitutional change but a Senate procedural one.

With friends like Snarlin' Arlen who needs Tom Daschle?

Sandinista redux

Robert Novak writes about how the Sandinistas are quietly and insidiously returning to power in Nicaragua.

When Gen. Omar Halleslevens was installed Monday in Managua as chief of the Nicaraguan army, the U.S. government was represented by a mere major at the change-of-command ceremony. The slight was intentional. Halleslevens is regarded at the Pentagon as a hard-line Sandinista, whose rise to power represents profound problems in Latin America.

The Sandinistas, the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary party repeatedly rejected by Nicaraguan voters, are on the verge of accomplishing what U.S. officials call a ''golpe technico'' (technical coup), stripping President Enrique Bolanos of power. It is no isolated event restricted to a small Central American country. The Sandinistas have a rich and powerful ally in Hugo Chavez, the Marxist president of Venezuela.

Chavez, the Venezuelan strongman who was returned to power thanks in large part to the execrable Jimmy Carter as we posted here, is as big a problem for us in Latin America as Boy Assad is in the Middle East:

Chavez has not only survived all Venezuelan challenges to his power but is making great strides in spreading his ''Bolivarian Revolution'' throughout the region. Besides the Nicaraguan connection, Chavez endangers shaky elected presidents in Peru and Ecuador and is aiming at unseating Bolivia's president, as he did his predecessor. Colombia's conservative regime is busy staving off narco-guerrillas backed by Chavez. The Venezuelan is spreading his influence through Latin America more effectively than his friend and ally, Cuban President Fidel Castro, ever did.

The Nicaraguan military was caught attempting to sell SA-7 shoulder-fired missiles to Colombian narco-terrorists recently. Sandinista lawyers got them off.

While we stalk the vipers in Damascus, Tehran and Pyongyang it looks like we need to take care of some business on the home front.

Tidbits 25Feb05

1. Victor Davis Hanson's article today is an overview of the liberal (small 'l') critique of the US over the past century. To wit: "It's America's fault", "America is weak", "Our enemies are indefatigable"...

Hanson makes a bold prediction in summary:

By the end of this year, formerly critical liberal pundits, backsliding conservative columnists, once-fiery politicians, Arab "moderates," ex-statesmen and generals emeriti, smug stand-up comedians, recently strident Euros — perhaps even Hillary herself — will quietly come to a consensus that what we are witnessing from Afghanistan and the West Bank to Iraq and beyond, with its growing tremors in Lebanon, Libya, Egypt, and the Gulf, is a moral awakening, a radical break with an ugly past that threatens a corrupt, entrenched, and autocratic elite and is just the sort of thing that they were sort of for, sort of all along — sort of...


2. Ward Churchill's firing offense? Apart from being a mad ranting misanthrope, 'Professor' Ward Churchill has been found, incontrovertibly, as a plagiarizer, a cardinal sin in academic circles. (yes, even the lefty ones) He baldfacedly copied artwork and sold it under his own moniker. Check it out yourself here. HT: LGF.

3. Ramesh Ponnuru at National Review Online catches Harvard constitutional law giant Laurence Tribe in presenting fantasy as fact. This isn't the crude theft of a Ward Churchill but venal and unnecessary.

4. It's Jay Nordlinger and I'm a fan. Nordlinger laments the activist victory over Wal-Mart in preventing Wal-mart's first NYC store from opening in Rego Park, Queens. Let's not mince words, Wal-mart is very tough on the local competition but it also brings in a huge variety of goods at exceptional prices which is damned good for the poor and the lower middle class. It's employees, many of whom are retirees, from personal experience, tend to give service that would shame the employees of most chain stores.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Light fare

Semi-slow news day, Monk getting beat down at work and Wongdoer returning to usual (LOW) level of usefulness = not much through the day for our (two? three?) readers. Perhaps more tonight and tomorrow. Wongdoer will have the con while I'm running around for work all morning and afternoon.

Tidbits 24Feb05

Ok this is a bit Summers heavy - but as a Harvard alum it's got me all hacked off and I wish I had a couple hundred million that I could threaten NOT to give them for the arrant stupidity of a large part (32% who called for his resignation) of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences.

1. Jay Nordlinger, naturally. A tad long today but a couple of appetizers:

I included in that piece a statement by an Indian American — a Muslim, as it happens — who outlined for me his political history. (Please bear in mind that when I say Indian American, I'm talkin' Subcontinent, not Navajo.)

He said, "I became a Republican when I was 17, at Berkeley, of all places. This was in the '80s, and the number-one issue on campus was affirmative action. I had gone to a high school where there were kids of every stripe and color, and race was never an issue. When I got to Berkeley, I thought I was in the Balkans, because everyone hated each other. I couldn't stand the racial fixations. That's what drove me to the Republican party."
***
Let's turn to a little Larry Summers.
...
The ostensible cause of his current trouble is his speculation about women in the sciences. But is that really why they want him out?
...
And what are they — "they" — mad at Summers about? For confronting Cornel West (and prompting his departure). For speaking against the rise of anti-Semitism on campus — anti-Semitism disguised as disagreement with Israel. For having a good word for the U.S. military, including the ROTC (still banned from the Harvard campus). For warning against grade inflation. For wanting this great university to have standards other than multiculturalism, political correctness, and leftism.
And, with regard to the US-European alliance, he quoted Disraeli - as I did yesterday :)

2. Peggy Noonan in OpinionJournal on Summers brouhaha:

Summers now seems to be saying he made a mistake in airing the idea of gender-related differences in the interests and aptitudes of scholars. But here is what he may be forgetting, for people under pressure often lose track of their lack of culpability: Summers did nothing wrong. He thought aloud about an interesting question in a colorful and un-defended way. That's what universities are for.
...
But what the Summers story most illustrates is that American universities now seem like Medieval cloisters. They're like a cloister without the messy God part. Old monks of leftism walk their hallowed halls in hooded robes, chanting to themselves. Young nuns of leftist deconstructionism, pale as orchids, walk along wringing their hands, listening to their gloomy music. They become hysterical at the antichrist of a new idea, the instrusion of the reconsideration of settled matter.

3. Debra Saunders at RealClearPolitics characterizes what Summers did wrong:
i. he talked about the wrong gender - being 'anti-male' is ok in Ivy
ii. he's male
iii. he didn't treat women badly - see Bill Clinton
iv. he was reasonable - see free speech maniacs defending Ward Churchill

Then, after banning the ROTC, Harvard profs whined that Summers is "dismissive and arrogant" -- as one professor told the Boston Herald. Dismissive and arrogant? If anything, Summers is too accommodating. He keeps apologizing and promising to be more sensitive and a better listener when he ought to be blasting his critics for their intolerant rush to exile people who express unpopular ideas.

My advice to the Harvard president: Don't apologize and promise to be a better listener. Be a man. [emphasis mine]

A New Hope, thanks to the US

If you haven't read it yet, look at David Ignatius' report/column from Lebanon regarding the Lebanese intifada rising up against Syrian occupation and the conversion of Druse Muslim leader Walid Jumblatt. Jumblatt was an accomodationist -- sort of a Lebanese Marshal Petain -- until he saw the Iraqis voting less than a month ago:

It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq[.] I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world . . . The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it.

Hopefully the Europeans (French, Germans, Belgians, Spaniards) will start to understand, freedom is universally desired when the concept is tangible.

What if Bush is right?

Christian Malzan utters the unutterable in Der Spiegel.

HT: Q&O.

NOW FIRE HIM -- UPDATED AND CORRECTED

Anti-American, anti-Caucasian, anti-capitalist and pseudo-intellectual Ward Churchill has now ADMITTED that he is not a Native American. That means his representations of Native American ancestry that led the University of Colorado to hire him as a professor were false. That means Ward Churchill is a liar and a fraud. As I said here, for that reason, he should be fired.

UPDATE: INSTAPUNDIT HAS LINKS TO THE DENVER POST AND OTHER MEDIA THAT INDICATE CHURCHILL'S "ADMISSION" REGARDING HIS HERITAGE NEVER HAPPENED. These reports indicate that the information contained in the link to the title of this post is INCORRECT.

I've stated before that the grounds for firing Churchill are falsity in his representations of Native American heritage, not his expostulations of his immoral and reprehensible viewpoints. If the Univ. of Colorado cannot prove he falsified information pertaining to his heritage, it should NOT fire him for his views.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Tidbits

Some other worthwhile reads today.

1. [More] Mark Steyn on the Tories who've lost their spine. But the real treasure is near the end:

In The Spectator in 2002, I quoted Lee Kuan Yew’s observations about the change in Singapore’s Muslims over recent decades: once relatively integrated, they now keep themselves to themselves, cover their womenfolk, and are stricter in their observances. The following year, a senior Dutch cabinet minister told me about the same phenomenon in his country: today’s young Muslims are more fundamentalist and isolated than their immigrant grandparents from the East Indies were in the early Seventies. This is the Islamic Reformation, and it’s happening across the globe, from Scandinavia to Java.


2. Powerline takes Belgium to task for their insolent 'piss on Bush' sticker. Holland doesn't escape either.

3. Jonah Goldberg on why he thinks Deep Throat was a fake invented by Woodward & Bernstein.

4. For something lighter, Jonathan Last on how movie studios make money today. Nicholas Cage, take note.

5. Hunter S. Thompson was never on my curriculum given a reasonable liberal arts education in both high school and college. Independently his material never held any interest. He seemed to be typical of 60's anti-everything, take no responsibility 'counter-culture' which thankfully went out with Jimmy Carter. Not to speak ill of the dead but are two (1 & 2)screeds on Thompson's work.

Saudi/Qaedan infiltration

By now, you've heard about the American citizen who is of Arab descent and who plotted with al-Qaeda. He is Abdul Omar Abu Ali and he has been charged with various conspiracy counts. He also intended to assassinate Pres. Bush.

Ali is a traitor, period.

What is more interesting, and horrendous, about this situation is that Ali was the valedictorian of "the private Islamic Saudi Academy in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County, a school for grades K-12." Why is that interesting? The Islamic Saudi Academy is a Wahhabist school financed by Saudi Arabia that teaches Saudi religious philosophy and has been called "Terrorist High." See this post, and these articles for more.

HT: CQ

Friends and Enemies

The British statesman Disraeli said, "The Empire has no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests." A bit realpolitik and better suited for the Cold War but wise counsel nonetheless--worth bearing in mind as you read the following articles:

Tom Donnelly in the Weekly Standard writes on how not all our allies are in Europe. Japan, according to Donnelly, has thrown its lot in with us globally because its government agrees our strategic goals (recently articulated by Rumsfeld) of transforming the politics of the greater Middle East and containing the growing power of the People's Republic of China.

In the brief pause between the Eurolove-fests of the past two weeks, it was leaked that Japan has essentially agreed to conduct a joint defense of Taiwan with the UnitedStates. This is a huge development and an act of real courage by the Japanese government. [WOW. ed.]

Japan's embrace of U.S. primacy in East Asia also makes its contributions to American adventures in the Middle East far more significant than they would first appear. Even after the first Gulf War, Japan contributed a tremendous amount to offset the costs of U.S. military operations; it continues to be a reliable contributor--despite the slowing of economic growth in Japan--but now is participating directly in military and reconstruction operations.
...
Like the United States, Japan has developed a fully modern economy without succumbing to post-modern politics. With the North Koreans popping missiles above the home islands and a rising China just across the sea, Japanese strategists are focused, and are animated by a sense of urgency hard to find even in London. Lately it seems like the Japanese take the military balance across the Taiwan Strait even more seriously than the Taiwanese do themselves.

Militarily, the Japanese also have a lot to offer. Not the least of these qualities is location--airfields and other facilities in Japan are absolutely essential to the conduct of any significant U.S. military operations in the region. Without access to these airfields, a defense of Taiwan would be close to impossible. Further, the Japanese "Self-Defense Force"--the euphemism which identifies the Japanese military--is a very capable force, especially the navy and air force, with a relatively high degree of interoperability with U.S. forces.


On the other hand, Mark Steyn writes that despite the recent 'charm' offensive by Rice, Rumsfeld and Bush of the death of "the West." [That is somewhat intrinsically saddening for me until I realize that "the West" of the late 20th century was as much an answer to Stalinist aggression as it was states that truly shared a global strategic vision. The demise of the former has certainly corrupted the latter.]

According to Steyn this change in tone forbodes ill for substance:

But, in the broader sense vis-à-vis Europe, the administration is changing the tone precisely because it understands there can be no substance. And, if there's no substance that can be changed, what's to quarrel about? International relations are like ex-girlfriends: if you're still deluding yourself you can get her back, every encounter will perforce be fraught and turbulent; once you realise that's never gonna happen, you can meet for a quick decaf latte every six – make that 10 – months and do the whole hey-isn't-it-terrific-the-way-we're-able-to-be-such-great-friends routine because you couldn't care less. You can even make a few pleasant noises about her new romance (the so-called European Constitution) secure in the knowledge he's a total loser.
...
Nato will not be around circa 2015 - which is why the Americans are talking it up right now. An organisation that represents the fading residual military will of mostly post-military nations is marginally less harmful than the EU, which is the embodiment of their pacifist delusions. But, either way, there's not a lot to talk about. Try to imagine significant numbers of French, German or Belgian troops fighting alongside American forces anywhere the Yanks are likely to find themselves in the next decade or so: it's not going to happen.

America and Europe both face security threats. But the difference is America's are external, and require hard choices in tough neighbourhoods around the world, while the EU's are internal and, as they see it, unlikely to be lessened by the sight of European soldiers joining the Great Satan in liberating, say, Syria. That's not exactly going to help keep the lid on the noisier Continental mosques.

Take the time to read it as well as Steyn's earlier post on Bush's trip.

UPDATE [by The Monk]: Austin Bay disagrees with Steyn and touts Bush's speech in Belgium on Monday as another V-E Day (go to his site and follow the link to Bay's column). The Monk has traveled to two of the smaller countries in Eastern Europe who see great hope (Czech Repub.) or great coercion (Hungary) from further integration into the EU. But the bottom line for those countries seems to be that they feel there is no choice but to integrate as much as possible with Europe as a whole and try to play nice with others. That means the Franco-German axis driving the policies of the EU has both the power and some ability to coerce the Eastern European countries that are potentially the US's best allies.

There are exceptions to that rule: Poland, Czech, Hungary, Romania, and Latvia all sent troops to Iraq; the Czech Republic threatened to veto Spain's proposal to forbid EU nations from hosting Cuban dissenters in their Cuba-based embassies; Poland has shown some muscle on EU representation issues. But the signs are less promising than Bay's overly optimistic take. Hopefully the Eastern European countries will continue to balk at Franco-German overreach and the UK will remember its "special relationship" with the US. More importantly, the Franco-German tendency to overplay its hand is probably the best bet for the US retaining both NATO's prominence and neutralizing any preliminary steps the EU takes to become a US counterweight.

Claudia Rosett: get her a Pulitzer already

Always worth reading, and always insightful. Today's piece: the UN scandals about sex are serious, but the UN's apathy in the face of refugees who are risking their lives fleeing North Korea is horrible.

Flaying the Judge

Andrew McCarthy excoriates Fox senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano who opined in a NY times op-ed about the injustice of the Lynne Stewart conviction. Some snippets:

As Napolitano puts it:

Just after 9/11, Attorney General John Ashcroft gave himself the power to bypass the lawyer-client privilege, which every court in the United States has upheld, and eavesdrop on conversations between prisoners and their lawyers if he had reason to believe they were being used to "further facilitate acts of violence or terrorism." The regulation became effective immediately.

Of course, had Napolitano taken the few minutes necessary to read the indictment (which is freely available online), he might have learned that all of the conversations and actions that resulted in Stewart's conviction took place about two years or more before the post-9/11 regulation (which the, er, Judge, in any event, mischaracterizes). That is: before George W. Bush was president, before John Ashcroft was attorney general, and before 9/11 ever happened. This investigation was very ably conducted by, and took place under the auspices of incontestably proper regulations imposed by, the Clinton Justice Department.

And it gets worse. Click the link to read it all.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Columbia's free speech issues

It is official: Columbia has reached the point where the presence of a viewpoint contrary to the farthest left-wing falsehoods about Israel is a sign of McCarthyism. Quite honestly, that university is sullying its reputation -- there's no higher learning in Middle East courses at Columbia, just expensive indoctrination. Read this post and the links therein for more.

And for this week's sign of the apocalypse: Columbia Professor Joseph Massad wrote that
. . . Zionists have adopted the identity of the anti-Semite and Palestinians have taken on a Jewish identity. In one of his latest essays, in the Winter 2005 issue of the scholarly journal Cultural Critique, Mr. Massad argues that Palestinian resistance is a struggle against anti-Semitism and that Israel as a Jewish state represents the most vicious form of anti-Semitism.

* * *
In the essay, Mr. Massad also compares Israel's treatment of Palestinians to Nazi Germany's treatment of Jews. After Israel's founding, he writes, Zionism "transformed those who remained inside Israel into foreigners in their own land and, from 1948 until 1966, subjected them to life under a military, racialist system of rule that was reminiscent of the life of European Jews under the worst types of anti-Semitic rule." The Nazis, he argues, serve as "pedagogical model" for the Israeli army.

Thus Massad unites a deliberate misidentification (Palestinian Arabs as Semites) with effective Holocaust denial whilst recycling the various lies regarding Israel's treatment of the Arabs within its borders and territories.

What a disgusting environment Columbia has become.

The East German solution for North Korea

Duncan Currie at the Weekly Standard has an interesting potential solution to the North Korean problem. Convince the Chicomms to open their border with North Korea and allow starving and impoverished North Koreans to vote with their feet hoping that the exodus would cause the NK regime to implode. Hungary's refusal to return East Germans in 1989 contributed significantly to the end of the Honecker regime.

It's a fascinating idea. Convincing the Chicomms to do it wouldn't be easy. I am uncertain that Beijing is sufficiently uncomfortable with the lunatic in Pyongyang and probably revels to continue to be in the driver's seat in East Asia. Currie suggests increased American aid to cope with refugees and playing the Taiwan card - "a nuclear Pyongyang means a nuclear Taipei". Bit of dangerous brinksmanship there and the Chicomms are more likely to ask for an end of the US arms embargo in payment. The other issue is will the North Koreans massacre their own citizens by the thousands to prevent them from fleeing? And if they started to, would anyone do anything about it?

The EU's pandering, anti-US Constitution

The NRO's Andrew Stuttaford disembowels the new proposed EU Constitution and looks askance at recent comments by Bush and Rice 'encouraging' it.

A final version was agreed in June 2004, and what a sorry, shabby work it is, an unreadable mish-mash of political correctness, micromanagement, bureaucratic jargon, artful ambiguity, deliberate obscurity, and stunning banality that somehow limps its way through some 500 pages with highlights that include "guaranteeing" (Article II-74) a right to "vocational and continuing training," "respect" (Article II-85) for the "rights of the elderly... to participate in social and cultural life," and the information (Article III-121) that "animals are sentient beings."

If the document itself is bad, the intentions behind it are worse.

The project of a federal EU has long been driven, at least in part, by a profound, and remarkably virulent anti-Americanism, with deep roots in Vichy-era disdain for the sinister "Anglo-Saxons" and their supposedly greedy and degenerate culture. Throw in the poisonous legacy of soixante-huitard radicalism, then add Europe's traditional suspicion of the free market, and it's easy to see how relations between Brussels and Washington were always going to be troubled.
...
Speaking back in 2001, some time before 9/11 and the bitter dispute over Iraq, Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson (who then also held the EU's rotating presidency) provided a perfect example of the paranoia and ambition that underpins this European dream. The EU was, he claimed "one of the few institutions we can develop as a balance to U.S. world domination."
...
But if the EU has had only limited success in persuading its citizens what they are, it has done considerably better in convincing them as to what they are not: Americans. Writing in 2002 about the "first stirrings" of EU patriotism, EU Commissioner Chris Patten could only come up with two examples: "You can already feel [it], perhaps, in the shared indignation at US steel protection...You can feel it at the Ryder Cup, too." It's significant that when Patten gave examples of this supposed European spirit, he could only define it by what it was against (American tariffs and American golfers) rather than by what it was for. It is even more striking that in both cases the "enemy" comes from one place — the U.S.

This is psychologically astute: The creation of a common foe (imagined or real) is a good way to unify a nation, even, possibly, a bureaucratically constructed "nation" like the EU. Choosing the U.S. as the designated rival comes with two other advantages. It fits in nicely with the existing anti-American bias of much of the EU's ruling class and it will strike a chord with those many ordinary Europeans who are genuinely skeptical about America, its ambitions and, yes, what it stands for.
...
And the more that the EU speaks with that one voice, the less will be heard from those of its member states more inclined to be sympathetic to America. And as to what this would mean, well, French Green politician Noel Mamère put it best in the course of an interview last week: "The good thing about the European constitution is that with it the United Kingdom will not be able to support the United States in a future Iraq."


Here's hoping for the UK to find its 'Anglo-Saxon' spine.

I believe in miracles

I remember coming home that night 25 years ago today and catching the final seconds of the US Olympic Hockey Team's Miracle on Ice -- the 4-3 victory over the USSR team that had waxed NHL all-stars less than one year before. For some unknown reason my parents wanted to see a movie that night and dragged me along, so I missed Mark Johnson's ridiculous goal that tied the game at the end of the first period, I missed Mike Eruzione's soft slapper that confounded Vladimir Myshkin for the winning margin. I've since seen the broadcast (or that part that ABC aired -- it was on tape delay!) and wondered how in the heck the Americans won.

I also remember the everyotherday updates from PaMonk leading up to that game -- if the hockey broadcast was too late, I had to go to sleep before learning the result. No biggie for the beatings of Norway or Rumania, but more momentous for the nailbiter against Sweden and the big match with (and complete beatdown of) the Czechs.

That Sunday we watched live as the hockey team stank up the rink for 40 minutes before coming alive and whacking the Finns to clinch the gold medal. Beautiful! And great to watch all over again.

Cherry on top: 1980 was the first of the Islanders' four Stanley Cup titles. They were helped by the addition of a rookie defenseman late in the season, Ken Morrow. Morrow's delay in joining the team? He was on the ice for the US at the end of the Miracle at Lake Placid.

On War - A lesson from Iwo Jima

Historian Arthur Herman gives a refresher on the battle of Iwo Jima which cost the US 26,000 men 60 years ago this month. The best part of the piece is his concluding "lesson on war":

...The lesson of Iwo Jima is in fact an ancient one, going back to Machiavelli: that sometimes free societies must be as tough and unrelenting as their enemies. Totalitarians test their opponents by generating extreme conditions of brutality and violence; in those conditions--in the streets and beheadings of Fallujah or on the beach and in the bunkers of Iwo Jima--they believe weak democratic nerves will crack. This in turn demonstrates their moral superiority: that by giving up their own decency and humanity they have become stronger than those who have not.

Free societies can afford only one response. There were no complicated legal issues or questions of "moral equivalence" on Iwo Jima: It was kill or be killed. That remains the nature of war even for democratic societies. The real question is, who outlasts whom. In 1945 on Iwo Jima, it was the Americans, as the monument at Arlington Cemetery, based on Rosenthal's photograph, proudly attests. In the jungles of Vietnam and Cambodia in the 1970s, it was the totalitarians--with terrible consequences.

Today, some in this country think the totalitarians may still win in Iraq and elsewhere. A few even hope so. Only one thing is certain: As long as Americans cherish the memory of those who served at Iwo Jima, and grasp the crucial lesson they offer all free societies, the totalitarians will never win.

Happy Birthday, Father

Today is the birthday of the father of our country: George Washington, Commander in Chief of the American Revolutionary Forces, President of Continental Congress and the first President of the United States. Above all else, Washington embodied dignity and integrity.

Those qualities and Washington's presence at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 led to the Constitution of the United States -- a document primarily written by James Madison that is the greatest guarantor of liberty and democracy that the world has known.

When a first President of the United States had to be found, there was only one person even seriously considered for the job. Washington was elected and re-elected unanimously (in the Electoral College). He knew and understood the gravity of his undertaking -- every action and decision he made would be a precedent for the country. Until 1940, even though there were no presidential term limitations in the Constitution yet, no president sought a third term precisely because Washington only served two terms.

The Monk feels Washington is our greatest president even though the power and control he had over the nation pales in comparison to the imperial presidencies of the 1900s and the powers Lincoln (and Monroe and Jackson) exercised in the 1800s. Washington governed for the future and the present and it's because of his presence that this country had a future.

Happy Birthday President Washington.

The UN's mismanagement in Kosovo

Since the NATO bombing campaign that helped topple Serbia's Milosevic, the UN has managed Kosovo for the last six years. It is a hellhole and a lesson for why the US has NOT allowed the UN to run, or even significantly contribute to, the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan. Click the link for former Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci's NYT Op-ed.

Republicans and judges: taking the high road for a fall

Byron York notes the steps the Republicans are taking to: (1) look good publicly; (2) persuade their own holdouts on the judicial-filibuster elimination strategy.

The first and perhaps most important development is the Republican decision to give in to Democratic demands to hold hearings for some appeals-court nominees who have already had hearings and who have previously been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

National Review Online has learned that the first of those hearings will be held next month on the nomination of William Pryor, President Bush's filibustered choice for a seat on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The hearing will also consider the nomination of William Haynes, the president's pick for a place on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Both men had hearings before the committee when they were nominated in the president's first term. Both were approved by the committee. Pryor's nomination was filibustered by Democrats, while Haynes's nomination was never brought to the Senate floor.


The Democrats will take the bait and act like fools even though both men are eminently qualified for their proposed judgeships. The press will salute the Dems for standing up against Bush's "extremist" nominees. The moderate Republicans will wimp out on filibuster reform and we'll be right back where we started.

In other words, this whole "olive branch" that York describes will be a waste of time and effort and will once again demonstrate the feebleness of the Republican Senatorial leadership.

This situation is preposterous. The Republicans have allowed the Democrats to reject wholly qualified judges on spurious grounds and have enabled the Democrats to do so with a minority of the Senate stalling these appointments. In other words, the Republicans have allowed the Democrats to act unconstitutionally. For the next Democratic president, watch the Republicans roll over once again, just like they did on the Ginsburg nomination.

Wimps.

In the [Royal] Navy

Churchill is quoted as describing life in the Royal Navy as "sodomy, rum and the lash." A phrase later shortened to "buggery, beatings and booze."

Churchill was an army man who became the naval secretary.

Today, the Royal Navy is performing a certain type of outreach and recruiting. Click the link.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Is CPAC misnamed?

CPAC is the Conservative Political Action Committee. From Ryan Sager's description (click title link, and Sager's no leftist), there's something missing from CPAC. Actually, a lot of things were missing: (1) Big-Tent Reaganism; (2) stressing the importance of opportunity; (3) tolerance of competing and dissenting views.

In other words, the CPAC meeting was dominated by paleocon nutters on the far right. When Manhattan Institute scholars are getting booed in panels, the result is not good.

Personally, I accept the Buchananite/Schafly/Coulter wing of the party because some of those wackos are necessary to defeat the stealth-liberal candidates that the Democrats have wanted to dress up as moderates in the past two presidential elections. But if the day comes that the CPACers are the dominant wing, I'd be hard-pressed to do more than write in my votes for a "none of the above" candidate every quadrennium.

HT: Billy A.

Presidents' Day? ARGH

I hate the unofficial name of this holiday -- Presidents' Day. The underlying notion is that we are celebrating all presidents no matter how woeful (Carter), corrupt (Nixon/Clinton/Harding), inept (Hoover, Taft), racist (Taylor-Fillmore-Pierce-Buchanan), semi-legitimate (JQ Adams, Hayes), unfinished (Garfield, Kennedy) or unimportant (Arthur, WH Harrison). Sure, it's fine to celebrate the great ones (Washington, Lincoln, Reagan, TR, Jefferson, Polk, Truman) but there are other ways to do so other than an all-encompassing misnomer.

Officially, Presidents' Day is still known as Washington's Birthday. But because the Congress combined the Lincoln's Birthday (Feb. 12) and Washington's Birthday (Feb. 22) into one federal holiday, the holiday has been unofficially renamed in a way that cheapens the accomplishments of Lincoln and Washington both. And that's what is so ridiculous about "Presidents' Day". This should be a day to remember and exalt the leadership of this country both in its founding and its sundering (and forcible reconstitution). Instead, the importance of these men fades with time and the detachment of this holiday from its purpose and its roots.

Infiltration for Dummies

The Yucatan state government in Mexico has published a guide detailing how Mexican migrants can obtain work visas in the US (no biggie) and how Mexicans can cross the border illegally and sneak into the country! This revelation comes only two months after the Mexican Foreign Ministry admitted publishing a 32-page guide on how to evade US border guards.

Does the US really need a wall on its southern border? These Mexican governmental actions are ridiculous.

Morning reading

Here are some of your best bets as National Review and the WSJ take today off due to "Presidents Day" -- a horrendous misnomer and cheapening of two holidays. More on that in a separate post.

First, two comments from non-Americans: Clive Crook on whether the US and Europe will remain good friends (see here) and Iain Duncan Smith on the blogosphere's potential for aiding the currently flaccid intellectual wasteland known as the British Right.

A comment on Crook: The Monk still thinks that Europe is more than just France/Germany/Spain and hopes that the rest of the continent can smarten up and realize that the Franco-German-Spanish axis is not looking out for the best interests of Poland, Italy, UK, Hungary, Ukraine, Czech Repub., etc.

As for Smith, he notes a couple of trends that indicate his sharp understanding of why the blogosphere could be useful for the Tories:
. . . the American left's relationship with the internet has been disastrous. The internet has sunk a knife into Bill Clinton's moderate Democratic party. Mainstream business people were Clinton's principal funders, simultaneously approving and driving his centrism. But the Democrats' new paymasters are the 600,000 computer users who, in 2004, supported Howard Dean's bid for his party's presidential nomination. Dean energised an unrepresentative group of voters with a stridently anti-war message. Electronic money powered Dean's campaign, and all of the other contenders for the Democratic crown soon pandered to his base.

The Democrats' problem has only worsened since. The dailykos.com site of a Democratic consultant gets 500,000 hits a day. That site's memorial to four American contractors murdered in Iraq was "screw them". Hatefulness also pours out of the popular websites of Michael Moore and MoveOn.org. The conservative blogosphere has dubbed the Democrats' IT base its MooreOn tendency.

* * *
But the blogosphere will become a force in Britain, and it could ignite many new forces of conservatism. The internet's automatic level playing field gives conservatives opportunities that mainstream media have often denied them.

* * *
All this should put the fear of God into the metropolitan elites. For years there have been widening gaps between the governing class and the governed and between the publicly funded broadcasters and the broadcasted to.

Until now voters, viewers and service users have not had easy mechanisms by which to expose officialdom's errors and inefficiencies. But, because of the internet, the masses beyond the metropolitan fringe will soon be on the move. They will expose the lazy journalists who reduce every important public policy issue to how it affects opinion-poll ratings.

Next, there's a truckload of good stuff at The Weekly Standard, and the best of the bunch is Christopher Caldwell's trenchant look at the Swedish welfare system and its attempts to cope with Muslim immigration.

Don't miss eminent historian Paul Johnson's commentary in Forbes on those who (quietly) are saying G-d Bless America.

And for U.N. haters, two big stories: (1) the High Commissioner for Refugees resigning under pressure for allegedly sexually harassing female employees of his agency; and (2) this rather heinous account of U.N. "peacekeepers" giving minimal amounts of food to starving Congolese teenage girls in exchange for sex.

Friday, February 18, 2005

The Nancy Hopkins Regurgitation Award

The inaugural Nancy Hopkins Regurgitation Award goes to Congressman Melvin Watt, Democrat of North Carolina and recently elected head of the Congressional Black Caucus, for his comments to Fed chairman Alan Greenspan in Congress.

Nancy Hopkins, as our faithful readers will know, is the MIT professor with the weak stomach who pranced out of a talk with Larry Summers because what he said threatened to make her black out or throw up.

Mel Watt decided to use his time to question chairman Greenspan in his semiannual testimony to Congress for a bit of grandstanding:

[transcript from Bloomberg]
...
GREENSPAN: I was. Good to see you, Congressman.

WATT: Good to see you.

I am going to try to understate this, because if I said it as aggressively as I feel it I suspect I would insult youand some other people. So I'm just going to make a one-sentence statement about it, and then I'm going to move on and ask you a question about something else, not designed to evoke a response.

I would have to say that when I hear you, when I hear the president use as a major justification for this Social Security reform plan that he's trying to look out for black folk, and when I hear you use as a major justification for private accounts that you are somehow trying to look out for poor people, it makes me nauseous.

I'm going to leave that alone and move on. If I said it -- if I dwelled on that, I'd probably throw up.

WATT: I'm moving on, Secretary Greenspan, because I don't -- I mean, I have no interest in getting into a publicdispute. I won't be able to restrain myself on that issue. So the best thing I can do on it is move on.

That's lovely, Congressman Watt, pontificate venomously and cut off any answer. Rather typical of the left-liberal mindset today. Mel Watt then went on to ask a ponderously silly question about the Social Security Trust Fund for which he demanded a yes or no answer. When he didn't get the answer he wanted/expected he asked for an explanation.

The Far Left's filthy secret

UPDATE: In the spirit of fairness and in consideration of Oyster's (whom I'll take as a member of the loyal opposition) sensibility, I've edited the title of the post to include "Far".

Kurt Andersen who describes himself "in disagreement with the Bush administration politically, temperamentally, and ontologically most of the time," nevertheless writes a remarkable article in New York magazine that exposes, eloquently, a shameful secret of the left.

The success of the [Iraqi] elections poses a major intellectual-moral-political problem for people in this city [New York]. The cognitive dissonance is palpable.
...
By last November, they’d hoped the U.S. would see things their way—and it was some solace that by January, a solid majority of the country apparently agreed with New York that Iraq was a mess and a misadventure.

Until the Iraqi vote: surprisingly smooth and inarguably inspiring and, in some local camps, unexpectedly unsettling. Of course, for all but a nutty fringe, it is not a matter of actually wishing for an insurgent victory, but rather of hating the idea of a victory presided over by the Bush team.

Like “radical chic,” a related New York specialty, “liberal guilt” once meant feeling discomfort over one’s good fortune in an unjust world. As this last U.S. election cycle began, however, a new subspecies of liberal guilt arose—over the pleasure liberals took in bad news from Iraq, which seemed sure to hurt the administration. But with Bush reelected, any shred of tacit moral rationale is gone. In other words, feel the guilt, and let it be a pang that leads to moral clarity.

Each of us has a Hobbesian choice concerning Iraq; either we hope for the vindication of Bush’s risky, very possibly reckless policy, or we are in a de facto alliance with the killers of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians. We can be angry with Bush for bringing us to this nasty ethical crossroads, but here we are nonetheless.
[emphasis mine]
...
But at this moment in this war, that binary choice of who you want to win is inescapable and needs to be faced squarely—just as being pro-war obliges one to admit that thousands of innocent Iraqis have been killed or maimed or orphaned.

At a certain point during the Vietnam War, a majority of Americans—those of us who were in favor of unilateral U.S. withdrawal—were in a de facto alliance with the North Vietnamese, the Vietcong, and the Soviets. Unpleasant but true.
...
It won’t do simply to default to our easy predispositions—against Bush, even against war. If partisanship makes us abandon intellectual honesty, if we oppose what our opponents say or do simply because they are the ones saying or doing it, we become mere political short-sellers, hoping for bad news because it’s good for our ideological investment.


HT: OpinionJournal

Summers' tempest continues

Harvard released the transcript of remarks made by President Larry Summers which caused a remarkable, ridiculous and continuing furor leading some faculty now to ask for a nearly unprecedented vote of confidence in the President. The transcript of the remarks is available here.

The remarks cover five single-spaced pages but are well worth reading as it is a remarkably good academic treatment of differences in gender representation overall and particularly in the hard sciences.

The content of his remarks were never really in dispute but its always good to go to the transcripts. Here are the passages that caused poor MIT prof Nancy Hopkins to grow nauseous:

So my best guess, to provoke you, of what's behind all of this is that the largest phenomenon, by far, is the general clash between people's legitimate family desires and employers' current desire for high power and high intensity, that in the special case of science and engineering, there are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude, and that those considerations are reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination. I would like nothing better than to be proved wrong, because I would like nothing better than for these problems to be addressable simply by everybody understanding what they are, and working very hard to address them.

Intrinsic aptitude, as Summers explained earlier, refers to studies done (Xie & Shauman) where the dispersion of test results in aptitude test was materially greater for men than for women. At the margin, this means could mean a lot:

If one supposes, as I think is reasonable, that if one is talking about physicists at a top twenty-five research university, one is not talking about people who are two standard deviations above the mean. And perhaps it's not even talking about somebody who is three standard deviations above the mean. But it's talking about people who are three and a half, four standard deviations above the mean in the one in 5,000, one in 10,000 class. Even small differences in the standard deviation will translate into very large differences in the available pool substantially out.

The Wall Street Journal, unsurprisingly, does much better coverage on the latest developments that the New York Times. The Times concentrates heavily on snippets of remarks that are catchy. The Journal, however, does an exceptional job of looking at Summers' overall tenure and his prickly relations with the faculty. It's subscriber only so a few excerpts:

Hired more than three years ago to retool Harvard for the 21st century, the former Treasury secretary has found the hierarchical management style common in corporations and cabinet agencies to be a tough fit for a storied university accustomed to decision making that is decentralized and collegial.
...
But the gender remarks proved to be only the catalyst that this week ignited a broader assault on Mr. Summers's performance since he took the helm in 2001, a period that has been marked by an unusual number of public rows with the powerful faculty, many of whom have nothing to fear from him because of lifetime tenure guarantees.
...
[B]attles with Harvard faculty broke out soon after Mr. Summers arrived. His confrontational style marked a sharp departure from that of his predecessor, Mr. Rudenstine, a soft-spoken Renaissance scholar.
...
Many at Harvard are still bitter that Mr. Summers singled out one of the department's stars, Cornel West, three years ago for a highly unusual presidential scolding of a tenured professor. Among Mr. Summers's issues, according to Prof. West's associates: making a hip-hop record and allegedly missing classes to help with a political campaign. At the time, a person close to Mr. Summers said he was only trying to encourage Prof. West to concentrate on scholarship and teaching. The incident inspired widespread publicity, and Prof. West ultimately left for Princeton University.
[Summers criticized West specifically for not having published a scholarly article in ten years. -ed.]

In the latest of several apologies, the Harvard president said in a letter sent to faculty yesterday that he would have spoken differently if he could "turn back" the clock. "Though my...remarks were explicitly speculative, and noted that 'I may be all wrong,' I should have left such speculation to those more expert in the relevant fields," he wrote.
...
Harvey C. Mansfield, a Harvard professor of government, said Mr. Summers has also taken on such issues as grade inflation and the generally liberal leanings of the school's faculty. "He is being attacked for his strengths and not for his defects," Prof. Mansfield said. "The liberals of Harvard lost the election last November. They are taking it out on Larry Summers."
...
For many reasons, Harvard itself is difficult to govern because it has long had a decentralized power structure, in which the deans of each school within Harvard have unusual power, says Henry Rosovksy, a former dean of Harvard's faculty of arts and sciences. Each dean traditionally controls a share of the school's vast endowment -- or, as many at the school say, "each tub on its own bottom."
...
[O]ther professors maintain that Mr. Summers's main failing was running afoul of ideas favored by the liberal elite. Mr. Summers, for example, has expressed his support for Reserve Officers' Training Corps, which was banned from Harvard during the Vietnam era. While falling short of calling for a return, that stance has angered gay students because of the military's prohibition of openly gay soldiers.


This looks more like an excuse for revanche at a insurgent and powerful executive whose attack on the status quo is loathed. Thankfully the Harvard Corporation has made public its strong support of Summers. Nonetheless this is a sad defeat for academic freedom at universities and a sad, but not unexpected, sequence of events from my alma mater.

Iran's newest useful idiot

Russia is helping Iran build a nuclear reactor at Bushwehr. Russia's semi-benign dictator, Vladimir Putin, said this to the Iranian nuclear negotiator:
"The latest steps by Iran convince Russia that Iran indeed does not intend to produce nuclear weapons and we will continue to develop relations in all sectors, including peaceful atomic energy."

Were those the steps where Iran has said it will develop nuclear weapons and withdraw from the non-proliferation treaty if the US keeps telling it NOT to develop nuclear weapons and withdraw from the NPT? Or were those the steps where Iran made a missile that can reach Tel Aviv and parts of Eastern Europe? Putin must be drinking the same Kool-Aid that Jimmy Carter's been slurping for the past 30 years.

HT: CQ.

Humor on the Right

Frank J. of IMAO gives the world a scouting report on blogs -- part of his outstanding "know thy enemy" series. One running joke is for Frank to posit a fight between the enemy in question and Aquaman. This one's a classic:

In a fight between blogs and Aquaman, blogs would keep hounding Aquaman about supposed statements he made at Davos about U.S. troops deliberately targeting fish until he was forced to resign from his job at CNN.

Two others for you, then click over to IMAO:

* If you are part of the mainstream media, blogs will keep demanding facts and objectivity from you. Don't give in! If you cede to this demand, who knows what they'll ask for next!

* If you see a geeky looking male or a slutty looking female in front of a laptop, he or she could be a blogger. Don't make eye contact or say anything in front of them or they will destroy you.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Humor on the Left

Maybe this is just today's sign of the apocalypse, but a liberal actually made some humorous points (of course, much disagreement by The Monk) regarding his opposition to Iraq by imagining a Bill O'Reilly interview with Yoda about the situation.

But be honest, the Empire definitely had its selling points, as Jonathan Last noted in this classic essay.

HT: VodkaPundit.

Feminism in decline

Catherine Seipp gets to the heart of what's gone pear shaped with feminism. Apparently a special Sunday opinion section in the LA Times last week featuring four women writers, two from the left and two from the right, really got former Dukakis henchperson Susan Estrich's knickers in a twist.

Sounds pretty reasonable no? Unfortunately, the LA Times had the audacity to feature the piece by Charlotte Allen who laments the decline of feminine intellectualism from heights reached a generation ago. Allen reasons that rigorous intellectualism has declined to prattling incessantly from the current 'feminist' catechism.

Estrich fumed that [Allen ]is "a feminist-hater I have never heard of...her only book was about Jesus and religion". A crime indeed. Michael Kinsley, the opinion editor at the Times who Estrich maligned for having the audacity to have replaced an African-American woman, responded with a zinger:

"I'm sorry that [Estrich] has 'never heard' of Charlotte Allen, but I think it may be possible to be a woman even if Susan Estrich has never heard of you." And: "If Susan wants to boycott media institutions that don't adequately reflect her progressive feminist values, maybe she should start by resigning from Fox News."

Susan Estrich, Nancy Hopkins (who started the Summers tempest in a teacup) and fellow travelers have hijacked feminism to suit what they believe. Shouldn't feminists have celebrated Condoleeza Rice's appointment as Secretary of State? A black woman from segregated Alabama at the top of Cabinet. Odd.

Despite what the race and gender peddlers desperately try to sell its not about race or gender and hasn't been for a long, long time. It's a battle over ideas. And on ideas they are severely lacking.

Ajami on Lebanon

Professor Fouad Ajami summarizes the long-running and abusive Syria-Lebanon relationship in the OpinionJournal today.

Rafiq Hariri was only the latest in a long line of Lebanese nationalists most notably Kamal Jumblat and Bashir Gemayal assassinated most likely at the behest of Syria.

Truth be known, [the] steady encroachment on Lebanon was aided and abetted by the silence of the world. ... A generation ago, the Pax Americana averted its gaze from the Syrian destruction of the last vestige of Lebanon's independence: In 1990-91, America had acquiesced when the Syrians put down the rebellion of a patriotic Lebanese officer, Michel Aoun, whose cause represented the devotion of the Christian Maronites to the ancestral independence of their country. That was the price paid by President George Herbert Walker Bush for enlisting Syria in the coalition that waged war against Saddam Hussein for his grab of Kuwait. Pity the Lebanese: They had cedars, Kuwait had oil. We would restore Kuwait's sovereignty as we consigned the Lebanese to their terrible fate in that big Syrian prison.

...The only antidote to this terrible, senseless death, is the eviction of Syria from Lebanon. In a rare, but important, case of French-American cooperation, those two powers have backed a United Nations Security Council Resolution calling on Syria to respect the sovereignty of Lebanon. If Damascus's operatives pulled off this assassination, the deed is a response, at once pathetic but brazen, to the mounting pressure on Syria to change its ways. It would be fitting that the Syrian hegemony in Lebanon consolidated during the first war against Saddam Hussein would be undone in the course of this new campaign in Iraq.

Lebanon (my birthplace, I should add) may never have been as pretty as its tales. It may never have been the "Paris of the Mediterranean," and its modernism may have been skin-deep at times. But it was and remains a vibrant Arab country of open ways, a place for refugees and dissidents, a country where Arab modernity made a stand, and where Christians and Muslims built a culture of relative compromise
.

Half a concert = Three Doors Down

I love my Monkette2B -- for my anniversary present, she sprung for tickets to the 3 Doors Down concert just outside Dallas, Texas; for Valentine's Day, I got the T-shirt.

We treked over to the show and listened through the two opening bands, one of which is unmemorable, the other was Saliva -- which plays early 80s metal (think Def Leppard before Histeria or Motley Crue from '83-85) and is fairly well known. At 9:30, Saliva was done.

At 10:00 3 Doors Down came out; eight or nine songs later at 10:45 they said "good night, Texas." The songs = singles from previous CDs, and the singles-to-be from the current CD, which the fans made #1 this week. The versions -- basically standard live versions, little variation from the CD spots.

At 10:50 they trundled out for a two-song encore and they finished before 11:00. That's it. Before the finale, Loser (a subliminal hint to the fans who shelled the dough for this?), Brad Arnold said, "we've got time for one more." The Monk thought "no, beanpole, you have time for another set."

And I didn't even mention the extended pauses between songs and the five times Brad asked the audience how it was doing.

That's crap.

The Monk has seen numerous concerts: U2 (x2), Sting (x4), Mellencamp, Eagles, Midnight Oil, Tom Petty, Pearl Jam, Ramones, UB40, Bruce Hornsby, Barenaked Ladies (x2) and others. Most went around 2-2.5 hours. That's standard. The only one of those that didn't shatter the 90-minute mark was The Ramones -- and a 70+ minute Ramones set with more than 20 thrash punk songs is worth anyone else's two hours. Springsteen often goes for four hours.

The Eagles went > 3 hours with no opening act; U2 went > 2 both times, including when I saw them in 1987 and Bono was only a week removed from his broken shoulder injury (this nullifies any excuse that Brad Arnold wasn't feeling well -- Bono's shoulder pain was obvious from the Green Seats in Madison Square Garden, nowhere near the floor). I've seen Sting go 2-2.5 with opening acts and over 3 without an opener. Pearl Jam had a SHORT set when I saw them: about 2:15, 23 songs -- that's well over double the 3DD set.

In a similar set-up, same venue with more notable opening acts (Butterfly Boucher, whose remake of Changes would be on the Shrek 2 CD three months hence, and Howie Day)
Barenaked Ladies churned along for more than 2 hours and a pair of encores.

I've heard this is par for the course for 3DD. If so, they need to revamp their act because dropping significant cash on an opening act-sized set is bulls't. They have 3 CDs out now, that's minimum 33-35 songs of their own material, and they do covers too (everyone does), like That Smell from Lynyrd Skynyrd.

The average concert consists of about 6-8 songs from the new CD, plus 15-20 songs from the band's history. Some acts do this differently if they have a large back catalog (Pearl Jam, Sting, U2). Still, when Pearl Jam had released only Ten and Vs., they had under 30 songs, but they performed full concerts including covers of Neil Young and others they admired. When U2 released The Joshua Tree, their set list was only their most recent three albums and I Will Follow; and they gave full concerts.

So what's wrong with 3DD? Why do they shaft their fans? Laziness? Greed? Boredom? This is a radio act right now, and that's it, until they put more into their shows than a 10-11 song rehash of their singles. Not worth the cash. My Monkette2B got shafted.

In defense of blogs and bloggers

Two good pieces today defending blogging and bloggers.

Peggy Noonan, in the Opinion Journal, does a great encapsulation of explaining why blogging is a public service.

Blogging changes how business is done in American journalism. The MSM isn't over. It just can no longer pose as if it is The Guardian of Established Truth. The MSM is just another player now. A big one, but a player.
...
1. They use the tools of journalists ... and of the Internet (Google, LexisNexis) to look for and find facts that have been overlooked, ignored or hidden. They look for the telling quote, the ignored statistic, the data that have been submerged. What they are looking for is information that is true. When they get it they post it and include it in the debate. This is a public service.

2. Bloggers, unlike reporters at elite newspapers and magazines, are independent operators. They are not, and do not have to be, governed by mainstream thinking. Nor do they have to accept the directives of an editor pushing an ideology or a publisher protecting his friends. ... This is a public service.

3. Bloggers have an institutional advantage in terms of technology and form. They can post immediately. ... This is a public service.
...
5. And they're doing it free. That is, the Times costs me a dollar and so does the Journal, but Kausfiles doesn't cost a dime. This too is a public service. Some blogs get their money from yearly fund-raising, some from advertisers, some from a combination, some from a salary provided by Slate or National Review. Most are labors of love. ...

6. It is not true that there are no controls. It is not true that the blogosphere is the Wild West. What governs members of the blogosphere is what governs to some degree members of the MSM, and that is the desire for status and respect. In the blogosphere you lose both if you put forward as fact information that is incorrect, specious or cooked. You lose status and respect if your take on a story that is patently stupid. You lose status and respect if you are unprofessional or deliberately misleading. And once you've lost a sufficient amount of status and respect, none of the other bloggers link to you anymore or raise your name in their arguments. And you're over. The great correcting mechanism for people on the Web is people on the Web.

There are blogs that carry political and ideological agendas. But everyone is on to them and it's mostly not obnoxious because their agendas are mostly declared.

7. I don't know if the blogosphere is rougher in the ferocity of its personal attacks than, say, Drew Pierson. Or the rough boys and girls of the great American editorial pages of the 1930s and '40s. ... I have seen friends savaged by blogs and winced for them--but, well, too bad. I've been attacked. Too bad. If you can't take it, you shouldn't be thinking aloud for a living...


In "Gentlemen Jockeys Win the Derby" Hugh Hewitt takes the Wall Street Journal to task for its uncharacteristic diminution of bloggers as "amateurs" from the "internet and talk show crew. He profiles the boys from Powerline, well known military bloggers Blackfive, the Fourth Rail and Adventures of Chester (all public knowledge) to rebut the accusations that these folks are amateurs compared to their counterparts in the MSM.