February 28, 2006
A friend e-mails, concerning the ports controversy:
Anyway, something that's bugged me in Michelle Malkin's posts on this has been her hang-up on the "sukuk." For example, in this post she says, "The supporters of, and retreaters on, the deal are also silent about the unprecedented, Islamic law-compliant funding scheme that allowed state-owned Dubai Ports World to force its more experienced rival to drop its bid for P&O. (The underwriters of Dubai Ports World's $3.5 billion Islamic financing instrument called a "sukuk" --Barclay's and Dubai Islamic Bank--were both cited as probable conduits for bin Laden money.)" Now, regarding Barclay and the Dubai Islamic Bank, I don't know anything - I doubt they're a shady operation devoted to bringing down the global economy and turning the world into an agrarian Caliphate, but I can't say for sure. But she portrays the sukuk as though it's some creeping sharia scheme or some such, which is just nonsense. In fact, I think the financing the best part of the whole deal.
Observant Muslims are not permitted to loan money at interest, and aren't supposed to borrow money at interest either. That can make buying a home problematic. There are different ways to get around this - for instance, in my city there's an Islamic Co-op—you put down a down payment, and the co-op buys the house. Then you pay down the loan interest free—however, you also pay them rent on whatever proportion of that home they own. As you pay down the loan, the less of your monthly payment that goes to rent, and the more that goes to pay down the loan.
Now, I'm sorry, but I think it's just a linguistic game - it's just putting a different name on interest. Which is fine - they see this as rent and as being acceptable, and I certainly don't begrudge them that. It's a solid investment for members of the co-op, returning 5%-7%, helping their community, every borrower is also an investor - it's exactly the kind of help-yourself thing we encourage in America.
But the point is, investment options are hard to find for the diligent Muslim. One person I know works at Fidelity, and he can't invest in any of the products his company sells, because all of the funds and companies are investing money in interest-bearing vehicles somewhere along the line. He's said scholars agree that as long as no more than X% of the returns (5%, 8%, something like that) are from interest, that it's alright, as long as it also avoids liquor, pornography, gambling, etc. There are specific Halal mutual funds, but the options are pretty scarce.
Michelle posts that Dubai has started its own stock exchange, and that this $3.5B sukuk is its crown jewel - here's a Halal investment, backed by this amazingly solid, safe asset - leases on US and other international ports. If you're observant and need to park a couple million dollars in something safe, and bonds are forbidden, and treasury bills and money market funds are out of the question, and suddenly this opportunity comes along - hell, this is a god-send.
So here's $3.5B, which is publicly traded - it's owned by investors large and small all across the Muslim world. I saw someone say that the UAE has 3.5 billion reasons to keep our ports safe and secure. But the larger point is that these 3.5 billion reasons will be shared across the middle and upper classes of the entire Islamic world. The sukuk makes these assets more valuable to a Muslim than they are to anyone else, simply because it now serves a market that it couldn't before.
Sukuk's are apparently becoming an important investment instrument in the world. That's good. We should encourage the Moslem world to buy more of America, and to think of us as an asset! Also, there's no Moslem "Vatican" to make the rules, so opinions on what's halal vary from one place to another. here's a piece on the Dubai sukuk financing the P&O purchase.
Keep in mind that Christianity also used to forbid usury, that is, loaning money to other Christians at interest. And these prohibitions probably arose for good reasons. In earlier eras money lending was often very destructive. In Low-Trust cultures you get very high interest rates and terrible punishments for default, often slavery. It tended to be what we call mafia loan-sharking.
Credit is necessary, and Christians got around the prohibition in various ways, just as Moslems do now. (Having Jews do the lending turned out to be a bad way around the problem, and led to much anti-Semitism.)
They wanted to believe it was real...
Good article in the NY Post by Michael Fumento, on politicized scientific journals...
...Some journal editors are completely unabashed about their chicanery. In 2004, The Lancet released ahead of publication and right before the 2004 U.S. presidential election an outrageous report claiming 100,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed since the U.S. invasion. Yet other calculations showed a range of 15,000 to 24,000 — and even Osama bin Laden claimed just "over 15,000."
No matter, the Lancet's editor took the opportunity to blast "democratic imperialism" and said "the evidence we publish today must change heads as well as pierce hearts."
Even Science's awful stem-cell embarrassment wasn't purely a matter of fraud. I have written repeatedly on how both Science and Nature have turned themselves into cheerleaders for any supposed advance in ES cell science, while opening their pages to laughable attacks on what many see as both medically and ethically superior — namely adult stem cells.
Perhaps the best explanation for why the Korean paper slipped by is that the editors so desperately wanted to believe it was real that they missed all the warning signs of fraud....
They are desperate. Their Leftish world is crumbling away, and the lies become ever more shrill and forced. If the dike crumbles at embryonic stem cells or global warming, the floodwaters will rush in....
I-pod Pro 2005 XP Human Ear Professional Edition...
Here's a parody video of how Microsoft might re-design the the box that an iPod comes in. If you care about the aesthetics of such things, and what they reveal about corporate cultures, you will find it very funny...
February 27, 2006
Bush did not lie...
Here's a good editorial in Investor's Business Daily, on the Saddam tapes:
...Inconveniently for critics of the war, Saddam made tapes in his version of the Oval Office. These tapes landed in the hands of American intelligence and were recently aired publicly.
The first 12 hours of the tapes — there are hundreds more waiting to be translated — are damning, to say the least. They show conclusively that Bush didn't lie when he cited Saddam's WMD plans as one of the big reasons for taking the dictator out.
Nobody disputes the tapes' authenticity. On them, Saddam talks openly of programs involving biological, chemical and, yes, nuclear weapons.
War foes have long asserted that Saddam halted his WMD programs in the wake of his defeat in the first Gulf War in 1991. Saddam's abandonment of WMD programs was confirmed by subsequent U.N. inspections.
Again, not true. In a tape dating to April 1995, Saddam and several aides discuss the fact that U.N. inspectors had found traces of Iraq's biological weapons program. On the tape, Hussein Kamel, Saddam's son-in-law, is heard gloating about fooling the inspectors.
"We did not reveal all that we have," he says. "Not the type of weapons, not the volume of the materials we imported, not the volume of the production we told them about, not the volume of use. None of this was correct."
There's more. Indeed, as late as 2000, Saddam can be heard in his office talking with Iraqi scientists about his ongoing plans to build a nuclear device. At one point, he discusses Iraq's plasma uranium program — something that was missed entirely by U.N. weapons inspectors combing Iraq for WMD.
This is particularly troubling, since it indicates an active, ongoing attempt by Saddam to build an Iraqi nuclear bomb. "What was most disturbing," said John Tierney, the ex- FBI agent who translated the tapes, "was the fact that the individuals briefing Saddam were totally unknown to the U.N. Special Commission (or UNSCOM, the group set up to look into Iraq's WMD programs)."
Perhaps most chillingly, the tapes record Iraq Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz talking about how easy it would be to set off a WMD in Washington. The comments come shortly after Saddam muses about using "proxies" in a terror attack.... (my emphasis)
The idea that Saddam had lost interest in WMD's, and was not a danger, was always a shit-stupid one. Now all sorts of information is oozing to the surface. The people pushing the "Bush lied" line were either liars themselves, or people who desperately didn't want to know. The truth is painful, and all sorts of pacifist fairy-tale castles and bureaucratic empires are endangered by it.
#198: What to do? What to do?
KRUGMAN TRUTH SQUAD
Graduates and Oligarchs, (02/27/06), is a mildly interesting column by Paul Krugman as he returns to one of his all-time favorite themes, the growing income inequality in America. What caught our eye was his odd choice of villains. Normally one would expect to read about the usual suspects lurking somewhere in the Bush White House. But in this case he chose his former boss at Princeton University, Ben S. Bernanke, who has been on the job a Chairman of the Federal Reserve for less than a month. What on earth has Ben done to deserve such an early scalding, we wondered. It turns out, not much. He was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Here’s the story. Robert Gordon, the guru of productivity analysis at Northwestern University, has a new paper out [Link. Click on "Where did the Productivity Growth Go?" to view PDF] documenting growing income inequality between high end and low end labor based on detailed IRS data during the 1966-2001 period. Krugman’s problem is that this period does not include the Bush years so there is no one obvious to bash. Even worse, an acceleration in inequality occurred during the Clinton Administration.
What to do? What to do? On the one hand he wants to get the new evidence out because it promotes his redistributionist view of the proper social order, but, on the other hand, having Clinton in his cross hairs does not exactly score partisan points, which after all is Krugman’s main reason for living. Now as it happens Gordon in his paper speculated that the growing income disparity casts doubt on something economists call skill-based-technical-change (SBTC) as the driver of real wage growth. This is the idea that as workers upgrade their skills they will be better able to keep up with the growing prosperity generally than the workers who don’t upgrade. Gordon is skeptical of this hypothesis based on his findings. SBTC would suggest that inequality should be growing between the top 20 percent who have become more skilled (e.g., college graduates) and the 80 percent who have held the same skill level. Instead he finds that inequality has grown most between the top 1 percent (or even the top 0.1 percent) and the rest of the labor force, including the to 20 percent with their presumed higher SBTC. In fact, the real wage growth of anyone below the 90th percentile has not come close to keeping up with economy-wide productivity growth. Arguably this should not be happening in a labor market in which the top 20 percent has a growing skill base.
Enter poor Ben. In his initial testimony before a congressional committee to a question about real wage growth he gave the standard SBTC answer. He hadn’t read Gordon? How dare him! So, Krugman pounced. He needed a victim with some tangential connection with Bush White House and Bernanke was handy. Call it collateral damage.
By the way Gordon’s paper makes clear that the TOTAL labor share of national income has remained roughly constant over his sample period. The return to capital has actually decline somewhat. So it is not a though Daddy Warbucks and his capitalist buddies are walking off with all the money. Instead, the growing inequality is occurring WITHIN the labor share. Gordon attributes this to the superstar phenomenon as entertainers, sports figures and Donald Trump style CEOs command higher income which falls into the wages and salaries category.
So back to Krugman’s title– Graduates and Oligarchs. Can anyone imagine Britney Spears as an oligarch? If so, you have a better imagination than we do.
[The Truth Squad is a group of economists who have long marveled at the writings of Paul Krugman. The Squad Reports are synopses of their discussions. ]
Also, concerning the Mosque bombing, there is some evidence that it may be an Iranian caper. Which is very interesting, because various people have been claiming that Muqtada al Sadr and his militias are wholly-owned subsidiaries of Iran, and that Iran could, maybe IS, blackmailing us with the threat that they can use the Sadrists to throw Iraq into civil war whenever they like. That's a point made in this piece by Spengler, which I never got around to blogging about. "...Muqtada already has warned that if the United States attacks Iran, his militias will rise in Iraq..." That threat looks a lot less credible right now.
I think the problem with analyses like Spengler's is that they resemble the plans I used to draw up when I played military board games in my youth. "I'll strike here. And there. And while he reacts to that I'll drop my paratroops on his supply lines and he will be helpless!" The problem was that I assumed the other chap would not attack me, and I assumed my cardboard battalions would be successful in their attacks. Either of which could turn out to be wrong.
....Much as Washington complains about Iran's efforts to arm militant Shi'ites in Iraq, it cannot do anything to hinder this except to deliver and execute a military ultimatum. The longer Washington dallies, the more resources Tehran can put in place, including:
- Upgrading Hezbollah's offensive-weapon capabilities in Lebanon.
- Integrating Hamas into its sphere of influence and military operations.
- Putting in place terrorist capability against the West.
- Preparing its Shi'ite auxiliaries in Iraq for insurrection....
We can't do anything to hinder? Says who? Iraq may be arming "militant Shi'ites," But everything we are doing in Iraq is tending to make Iranian infiltration more difficult. The stronger the Iraqi government and military grow, the less likely militia uprisings become. And arming terrorists is useful as a threat, but actually using them turns them into targets, and justifies retaliation against Iran.
Spengler could just as logically have said: "The longer Tehran dallies, the more resources Washington can put in place."
Freedom of Speech...
Cathy Seipp writes:
A FRIEND OF MINE took his young daughter to visit the famous City Lights bookstore in San Francisco, explaining to her that the place is important because years ago it sold books no other store would — even, perhaps especially, books whose ideas many people found offensive.
So, although my friend is no fan of Ward Churchill, the faux Indian and discredited professor who notoriously called 9/11 victims "little Eichmanns," he didn't really mind seeing piles of Churchill's books prominently displayed on a table as he walked in.
However, it did occur to him that perhaps the long-delayed English translation of Oriana Fallaci's new book, "The Force of Reason," might finally be available, and that because Fallaci's militant stance against Islamic militants offends so many people, a store committed to selling banned books would be the perfect place to buy it. So he asked a clerk if the new Fallaci book was in yet.
"No," snapped the clerk. "We don't carry books by fascists."
Now let's just savor the absurd details of this for a minute. City Lights has a long and proud history of supporting banned authors — owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti was indicted (and acquitted) for obscenity in 1957 for selling Allen Ginsberg's "Howl," and a photo at the bookstore showed Ferlinghetti proudly posing next to a sign reading "banned books."
Yet his store won't carry, of all people, Fallaci, who is not only being sued in Italy for insulting religion because of her latest book but continues to fight the good fight against those who think that the appropriate response to offensive books and cartoons is violent riots. It's particularly repugnant that someone who fought against actual fascism in World War II should be deemed a fascist by a snotty San Francisco clerk...(Thanks to Austin Bay).
It's ironic and repugnant, but it is not surprising. Neither Ferlinghetti nor his bookstore believed in free speech in 1957. If there had been a thoughtful well-written conservative book that criticized the Beat Movement and Howl, they would not have carried it. (Important note: If there had been an absurd or unreasonable anti-Howl book, say by a foaming-at-the-mouth KKK leader, they would have carried that, and proudly proclaimed their commitment to "free speech.")
It's the same with the leftist ACLU, which boasts about defending the right of the American Nazi Party to march. But that's easy for them to do; the existence of neo-nazis makes the Left look good. It helps them. The real test for them is whether they will defend the free speech of reasonable people opposed to their leftist views. I've heard over the years of a number of instances where the ACLU has failed that test. It was against the right of teachers to march against school busing. And against a young man who wished to remain in the US when his parents returned home to the Soviet Union. (NOTE: these decisions are made by local chapters of the ACLU, and don't necessarily indict the organization as a whole.)
If I defend the right of of moveon.org to publish, that doesn't show much of a commitment to Free Speech. They help my side, and we often quote them as examples of leftish loathsomeness However, if there were a thoughtful leftist blog that was actually wooing people away from conservative positions (ahem, I'm still waiting), my defending their free speech would be meaningful.
February 26, 2006
"those who felt like doing something have done what they've done"
Interesting, from Omar at Iraq the Model:
Curfew extended in Baghdad and three other provinces.
The defense minister in a press conference currently on Iraqi TV gave statistics to correct what he described as "exaggerated media reports" about civilian casualties and attacks on mosques since the attack on the Samarra shrine:
Mosques attacked/shot at without damage: 21 not 51
Moderately damaged: 6 not 23
Mosques destroyed totally: 1 not 3
Mosques occupied by militias: 1 not 2 (evacuated later).
Civilians killed: 119 not 183
It was also announced that day-time curfew in Baghdad and three other provinces (Salahiddin, Diyala and Babil) will continue for another two days.
More from the press conference:
In the same press conference, the interior minister said "we are not going to show tolerance towards those who cause violence anymore, those who felt like doing something have done what they done but we will accept no more of this" obviously referring to those who let their anger push them to violence.....
Somehow, that doesn't sound like "civil war" to me. I expect a lot of people were indulging in wishful thinking. Bush-haters of course, but also those who may be hoping for a "clash of civilizations" to make life seem exciting. But it looks like the slow boring work being done under the banner of the Bush Doctrine will go on.
And, though superior beings will recoil in horror from me for saying this, it also looks like the "insurgency" was a good thing. It has apparently immunized Iraq against terrorists. The Golden Mosque was surely destroyed in order to foment a civil war. But that isn't happening. Iraqis are seeing through this trick.
And I'd say it means that whoever did the deed--al Queda or Ba'athists (or NewsWeek)--knows they are losing. This was a desperate throw. Its failure will strengthen the forces of moderation and freedom in Iraq.
February 25, 2006
Then and now...
Just in case there's somebody who still reads the "mainstream" media, and thinks it is just trying to report the news, here's a comparison of coverage of the Cheney hunting accident and the suicide of Vince Foster.
(With a bonus: comparison of the Clintonistas now castigating Bush/Cheney for being "secretive," with their actions when they scoured Foster's office of all evidence before authorities could examine it. And no, I'm not proposing any Vince Foster conspiracy theories. Just noting that the idea that this Administration is especially secretive is preposterous.)
(Thanks to Betsy Newmark)
February 24, 2006
Lizard smells opportunity...
Mike Plaiss sent a link to a fun editorial by Amity Shales, In Ports Debate, U.S. Battles Its Inner Lizard:
Feb. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Politics are like markets -- a struggle between the lizard brain and the cerebral cortex. The uproar over the sale of several U.S. ports to a company based in the United Arab Emirates is no exception.
Our collective lizard brain balks at the Bush administration's approval of plan to let Dubai Ports World manage operations at harbors from New York to Miami. The collective cerebral cortex, that part of the national brain that does strategy, duly rebuts. On the Dubai Ports question, the lizard seems to be gaining ground.
Lizard: You didn't hear me. I have trouble thinking of the United Arab Emirates as an ally.
CC: But the UAE is an ally. Our U-2 spy planes are based there.
Lizard: Chuck Schumer is right. This deal is too hasty. President Bush was caught flat-footed. Lizard smells opportunity for domestic political advantage.
CC: This deal was cleared by people lower down on the basis of old and explicit policy. The way President Bush reacted to the news of Dubai Ports World isn't called "being caught flat- footed.'' It is called "efficient delegation.'' This fight is not about Bush. It's about policy....
Fighting the last war...
Ethan Hahn e-mailed some thoughts that seem to me to be right on the mark:
I read Hugh Hewitt's interview with Austin Bay on RadioBlogger last night:
...and near the end, Hugh has a line that finally made a connection for me. He and others keep talking about the incremental increase in the threat - that Al Qaeda sleepers could infiltrate DPW and get their hands on, I don't know, schematics or protocols or shipping schedules or whatever else...here's the line that hit me: "we go back to Cold War bad guy days, and we know what penetration operations look like. And even though they don't have anywhere near the technology or the number of say, Stasi, they've got advantages in terms of our ability to detect them, because of the cultural differences."
...and it struck me...as happens in every conflict - these guys are fighting the last war! The Soviet Union had vastly different goals than the jihadi's do. I don't know near as much about the history of the Cold War as you, but my understanding is that the Soviets wanted to infiltrate our industries to steal our technology; infiltrate the government to find out what we were doing or how we'd react in situations; infiltrate our infrastructure to find out as much about our capabilities as possible so that if full-scale war ever came they'd have an advantage; infiltrate foreign governments to exert hegemony over Europe and Asia and Central and South America; and in every way, to erode our power, economically, politically, etc. Full frontal confrontation would be suicide - so their best weapon was stealth, plausible deniability, proxy agents, etc. They didn't want to take out one of our cities, or nuke Tel Aviv, or behead prisoners on live TV.All these arguments would have made perfect sense in 1968, or in 1983 - but in 2006, the incremental threat posed by an enemy agent having access to financial documents or maps of the air ducts is just nonsensical to worry about. Let's worry about someone putting smallpox in a container loaded in Odessa, or putting a nuke on a passenger jet out of Tunisia and setting it off at JFK. And most of all, let's try to transform the Middle East, bringing liberty and prosperity to them, helping them embrace liberty and globalization and western values - let's not slam the door in their face.
We have to do the 'Homeland Security" thing; it's expected. But if terrorists decide to ht us, they will. Look at Iraq. We have an army constantly patrolling, we have what's become a very large and effective Iraqi Defense Force, we have an aroused, armed and vigilant population, and yet...ka-boom. Goodbye Golden Mosque. They could do the same thing here. Heck, I could blow up a big building myself, for probably less than $20,000. (How? Should I say? Why not. Lots of big buildings have retail space inside--often whole shopping centers. So I rent a shop, fill it with cheap curios to sell, and start accumulating Ammonium Nitrate or Ammonium Sulfate in my store-room. Buy it in small quantities in different locations as fertilizer. Same with some diesel oil. Ship it to myself in small quantities by UPS, or just bring it in a small box at a time. Six months later, BOOM.)
Al Qaeda isn't interested in us. They want to control the Muslim world. And with the prospect of an elected government and a free people right smack dab in the Arab heartland, they have much higher priorities than attacking us. That's one of the reasons hitting Iraq was a stroke of pure genius. Al Q has been forced to react to our moves. That's what's protecting us from attack.
February 23, 2006
look at the map.
Dafydd points something out that hasn't received enough attention in the Dubai Ports controversy.
What's our biggest, most dangerous problem in the Middle East? Iran.
Is the problem going to be resolved diplomatically? Not likely.
Is George W Bush the kind of guy who is going to hope the problem goes away, or let some future president inherit it? Even less likely.
So that points to a strong likelihood of some sort of military intervention in the near future.
And Dafydd has a map. And on the map there's a glaringly obvious problem for us. The Persian Gulf, The Gulf or Oman, and especially the Strait of Hormuz. Through which flow much of the world's oil. Here's a more detailed map. Notice which country holds most of the peninsula that forms the strait...
If a problem is looming, then the first item on W's check-list is going to be: UAE ~~give 'em whatever they want...
I wonder what's happening in the Sultanate of Oman these days? They're the other occupants of that peninsula...
February 22, 2006
I'm very disappointed in the manner in which a number of conservatives have opposed the ports transfer. Partly because they aren't very interested in facts, and don't feel compelled to present much in the way of evidence to back up their assertions. But even more, it's the ungenerous flavor of their discourse that I don't like.
Even if--let us stipulate for the sake of argument--that it's true that the deal is a security risk to our ports. None of the anti-Dubai crowd has suggested in any way that we should do anything else to encourage the friendship of the United Arab Emirates, or to reward them or thank them for the help they have given us, or to compensate them for the loss of this deal. They have nothing generous or warm-hearted to offer. No alternative plan to extend the hand of friendship to these people. They only think about us. OUR security is all-important, the rest of the world is uninteresting and uninspiring.
This is particularly galling to me, because it's similar to the cold-hearted selfishness that seems to me to be the chief characteristic of today's leftists...
Dennis the Peasant is even harsher in his judgment than I am...
...I am afraid we are coming to the moment of the Great Divide within the Conservative Movement. It is increasingly apparent to me that a substantial number of ‘Conservatives’ have never shared the noble impulse of President Bush’s vision of a democratic, secular and prosperous Muslim world. Instead, that has been co-opted by those whose vision begins and ends with the application of brute force, and who have come to the belief that subjugation or destruction are the only option available to us when dealing with the 'Other'... Our final solution, as it were...
Well, probably it was always thus. I don't think this is a "Great Divide," because we were always divided. Think back to the Cold War. Back then there were conservatives who dreamed of liberating the oppressed victims of socialism, and other conservatives who just hated commies, and cared only for our safety. That's just basic human nature. Not many people are going to sign on for a noble and idealistic (but difficult) cause at any time.
And it IS a "noble impulse." And one that has deep roots in conservative culture. The idea of fighting communism by promoting democracy was more-or-less invented within the Reagan Administration, and applied with great success. And many of the same people are still working in the same cause, this time against the Islamists. (They are labeled "Neocons." And no, they are not running things, and weren't in Reagan's time either. We just use them.)
After 9/11 a lot of people signed on for war against Saddam or the Taliban. But that doesn't mean they signed on for years of patient effort to make these people friends and equals...Nuh uh. I think a lot of people on the right never actually "got" the idea. Probably thought it was just happy talk, fit to be ignored.
I'm in the camp of the idealists and dreamers. And I'm very disappointed in that section of conservatives that has never been warm-hearted about Bush's vision for the Moslem world and other needy parts of the globe. Hey, I rather like those people of the Middle East, and Central Asia, though I only get to meet them vicariously via the Internet. (And yes I'm perfectly aware that the Islamic world, especially the Arab world, has LOTS of pathologies and horrible flaws and shortcomings. But think this is a difference of degree, and not of kind.)
And if we conservatives of America and the Anglosphere don't try to build a better world, who else is going to do it? Leftists? Europeans? It is to laugh.
February 21, 2006
Now suddenly we have real enemies!
I caught a little bit of Rush while running errands, and he made a good point.
Regardless whether the Dubai Ports acquisition goes through, Bush has really flushed out the Democrats. Everything they've been doing--attacking our war efforts from every direction, talking impeachment--has been predicated on the position, spoken or unspoken, that this is not a real war we are in. That Bush is just using the pretext of war for a power grab/fascist takeover/one-party state/enriching Halliburton blah blah blah...
Now suddenly Democrat leaders are saying that we have real enemies! That there's a real danger! That we must be vigilant! They are also taking the extremely "racist" position that no Arabs can be trusted, even ones that have been working with us in the War...
Whatever happened to "Why do they hate us?" Whatever happened to the idea that getting tough with Arabs or Arab countries would turn them against us, would cause them to become enemies?
February 20, 2006
Today was a rare day without distractions or errands. Just the right time to try this slow-cooking recipe by Scott Chaffin, Tejas Shredded Beef. It was a hit with the Weidners...
February 19, 2006
The cries of outrage about Dubai Ports World buying the company that runs many big US ports are, I suspect, just plain stupid. I see that a lot of people just haven't actually grasped the reality of globalization.
Dennis has a good post on this:
...In any event, just how does one draw the conclusion that the argument that port security a change in ownership at Peninsular and Oriental from English (read White and Christian) to Dubai Ports World (read Non-White and Muslim) would automatically lead to U.S. ports being overrun by swarthy, gun-toting Arab/Muslim terrorists? Dubai Ports World has already announced the Peninsular and Oriental’s headquarters location (London), management (English) and operations will remain intact. Beyond that, all of Dubai World Ports have received the same independent security certification – International Ship and Port Facility Security – as has Peninsular and Oriental ports....
Those of you who are dreading the thought that A-Rabs are going to have a choke-hold on our sea-borne commerce (confess, you had no idea that the English were running our ports, did you?) just gather around, and I'll show you something. This thing I'm going to show you is called a "link"...wait...here it comes: LINK. Click with your mouse on the link, and you will learn a whole heap about Dubai Ports.
Dubai Ports manages ports in: Australia, Djibouti, India, Romania, Australia, Germany, Dominican Republic, Hong Kong, China, Malaysia and Venezuela....Here's another list.
Probably most of the people in those places have no idea that their ports are run by DP, just as New Yorkers have no idea their port is being run by an English company. And they will probably never notice that Dubai has taken over. Why? Because Peninsular and Oriental hired Americans to run the American ports they manage. And DP will do the same, plus they will keep the various Englishmen and other folk of P&O.
How do I know this? Because that's how it's done! DP has to keep local governments happy, if they are going to keep managing ports. So they are not going to fire the locals and bring in guys wearing head-towels. (and BTW, NY's port is partly run by another foreign company, Mærsk. You didn't know that either.)
And they are already working closely with American security. How do I know this? Because that's how it's done! We don't just sit and wait until a ship appears on the horizon to start wondering if it might be a security risk. We work closely with the ports and countries where those ships are coming from. And a lot of those ports are managed by.....DP.
Here's a useful post. (In which a commenter points out that the Chinese are involved in port management on our West coast!)
February 17, 2006
Forty miles of bad road...
Daniel Henninger, in OpinionJournal...
...Have you ever noticed how on a scale of one to 10, every untoward event in the life of the Bush presidency goes straight to a 10?
The Abu Ghraib photos? A 10 forever. Dick Cheney catching a hunting buddy with some birdshot? An instant 10. The Bush National Guard story? Total 10. How can it be that each downside event in this presidency greets the public at this one, screeching level of outrage and denunciation by the out-of-power party and a perpetually outraged media?...
That's sure the truth. Next week Harry Reid will be denouncing the "secrecy" of the administration because Dick Cheney didn't inform the press about his ingrown toenail. And we'll hear calls for impeachment because Scott McClellan got a bloody nose tossing a football with the President.
But Henninger thinks all this is a deliberate strategy, to build up a feeling of distaste and weariness for all the "troubles" that come with Republicans...
...No matter how voters feel on any one issue--terror, the courts, values--the Democrats, event after event, are building the feeling that the Bush-Cheney presidency and GOP Congress have somehow been 40 miles of bad road.
Can it work? Absent a 21st-century political vision, I think Democratic candidates will always be drawing to an inside straight. Creating a negative aura is easier than contending on discrete issues such as taxes. Yes, substance and ideas count in politics, but in many parts of American culture these days feelings and stereotypes are money. Why not make the public just want to throw in the towel on the Republican "experience"?...
Could it work? I'd like to think better of the American people, but my heart's been broken before.
One thing's for sure. There has rarely in our history been such a pathetic bunch of losers as these "Democrats" and leftists and peaceniks. They not only believe in nothing and have no positive plans or dreams, they seem to have given up even pretending to have any positive message.
Old school gent...
I caught part of Harry Whttington's statement on the radio as I was driving around this morning. What a classy guy. A gentleman. I bet the Democrat dweeblings of the press don't even realize he was pouring 0000-grade scorn on them when he thanked them for their prayers and good wishes!
February 16, 2006
We've been hearing lots of generalizations lately about what Islam is, and what Islam believes, etc. I think they are as much the bunk as similar generalizations about Christians would be. You never hear them from people who are actually dealing with Moslems--they always write about character of the people in the local town or tribe or ethnic group.
Blogger Dennis the Peasant is an advisor to the Somali Community Association of Ohio, which represents about 30,000 Somali refugees in central Ohio. He's started a series of posts about his adventures working with them. They are certainly some odd ducks, but don't resemble any Moslem stereotypes I've ever heard...
The latest post is about an election the association held in 2002. Their first election, and the first election of any kind for most of them.
....Happily, as the campaign season progressed, the atmosphere seemed to grow less tense, if not more relaxed. That isn’t to say the intensity of the electioneering diminished. It didn’t. But as the weeks passed and the Somalis saw that the candidates were actually soliciting their votes, that there were no spies, that there were no goons or killings or bombs, it began to dawn on them that this was really going to happen... they were really going to have a voice. And once they began to believe, the anger, distrust and suspicion turned to excitement. It was an amazing transformation to watch....
- - - - - - - - - - -
...For whatever reason, Somalis (or at least the Somalis I have dealt with) consider a closed door to be an invitation to come in unannounced and find if who or what they’re looking for happens to be around. It took a while for me to get used to people barging into whatever room I happened to be in when I was at the Association, but by the time this young Somali man, whom I had never seen before, came barreling through the door, I was used to it enough that I wasn’t really taken by surprise.
“Hello,” I said.
He was a young man, in his 20s, and quite handsome. He was tall and slender, but well built. An athlete. He didn’t respond to my greeting. He just stood there with the most amazing look on his face – a combination of excitement, exuberance and, quite frankly, what appeared to be rapture – and his eyes were as bright as a man’s could be.
He stared at me for a moment, smiled a huge smile and said, “We’re having an election!”
That was it. He turned around and was gone, slamming the door behind him.
I have not seen him since....
February 15, 2006
The Nihilist in Golf Pants gives us:
Top 11 Reasons for the 24 Hour Delay in Reporting Dick Cheney’s Hunting Accident
11. It took a while for The Wolf to arrange the cleanup
10. Thought Federal law mandating 24 hour cool down period for firearms was for AFTER they were fired.
9. Didn’t want to be distracted by a lot of questions until after the Men’s 20km biathalon
8. Cheney wanted to make sure he hadn't taken Whittington out of season.
7. Didn’t want the press to immediately declare the hunting trip a quagmire
6. Mistakenly thought that the Nihilist in Golf Pants wouldn’t be able to come up with a top 11 list on a Sunday
5. Wanted to arrange a couple more hunting trips before the word got out
4. Had a tough time tying Whittington to the hood to bring him into town
3. Ted Kennedy always saying that you should wait 24 hours before reporting an accident
2. Had to debrief the Halliburton board first
1. Needed time to falsify intelligence showing that Whittington had WMDs
Maybe he was just psyching himslf up for the duel with Lawrence O'Donnell. Principals will each drink three bottles of Dos Equis, then fire birdshot from 28-gauge guns at 30 paces...
Well, the PJ Media ads have finally arrived. The one place you thought was a refuge from crass commercialism has now joined the huckster crowd...
I actually signed up (long ago) for PJ Media because I'm the world's least clubbable person, and never want to join anything. So occasionally I force myself to join something. The odd thing is, I'm still not sure what Pajamas Media is. "Work in progress" no doubt...
Bill Roggio is back from Iraq, and blogging once again at his own site, Fourth Rail. He is, as he was before, indispensable in following what's really happening in the war. You won't find this stuff in the newspaper.
PowerLine posts a note from an experienced hunter. I've done a little shooting myself (dove and rabbits, more decades ago than I want to admit) and it sounds about right.
I can't believe the way our "press" is disgracing itself. Take a bunch of Blue-State girlie-men, add a massive case of BDS, and we get hissy-fits so ludicrous I'm embarrassed to live in the same country with them.
I'll be happy to go hunting with Dick Cheney, if he wants to invite me...
Update: I e-mailed Karl about this, and he said it was all just a stunt. (Don't tell anyone.) Apparently the 391 hunters in the country who still vote Democrat are a torment to his perfectionist soul. Reason has failed with them, so he told Dick to do something outrageous. (The VP rejected, as dishonorable, the suggestion that he pepper a reporter.)
February 14, 2006
Avenging angels sent by The God Himself...
Excerpt from a letter from the Mayor...
In the Name of God the Compassionate and Merciful
To the Courageous Men and Women of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, who have changed the city of Tall’ Afar from a ghost town, in which terrorists spread death and destruction, to a secure city flourishing with life.
To the lion-hearts who liberated our city from the grasp of terrorists who were beheading men, women and children in the streets for many months.
To those who spread smiles on the faces of our children, and gave us restored hope, through their personal sacrifice and brave fighting, and gave new life to the city after hopelessness darkened our days, and stole our confidence in our ability to reestablish our city.
Our city was the main base of operations for Abu Mousab Al Zarqawi. The city was completely held hostage in the hands of his henchmen. Our schools, governmental services, businesses and offices were closed. Our streets were silent, and no one dared to walk them. Our people were barricaded in their homes out of fear; death awaited them around every corner. Terrorists occupied and controlled the only hospital in the city. Their savagery reached such a level that they stuffed the corpses of children with explosives and tossed them into the streets in order to kill grieving parents attempting to retrieve the bodies of their young. This was the situation of our city until God prepared and delivered unto them the courageous soldiers of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, who liberated this city, ridding it of Zarqawi’s followers after harsh fighting, killing many terrorists, and forcing the remaining butchers to flee the city like rats to the surrounding areas, where the bravery of other 3d ACR soldiers in Sinjar, Rabiah, Zumar and Avgani finally destroyed them.
I have met many soldiers of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment; they are not only courageous men and women, but avenging angels sent by The God Himself to fight the evil of terrorism....
NAJIM ABDULLAH ABID AL-JIBOURI Mayor of Tall ‘Afar, Ninewa, Iraq
February 13, 2006
Traditions serve an important function in politics. They are a sort of democracy that acts over time; they grow and solidify because people in the past have found them worth repeating, until they "stick." They codify wisdom gained over many lifetimes. Some go back to the time of George Washigton. If you ever encounter a tradition that seems to serve no apparent function, "Stop, Look and Listen" as they say, before you throw it on the trash!
Other bloggers have heaped deserved criticism on Al Gore's going to the home of the 9/11 hijackers and criticizing America's response to that brutal attack. It was a disgusting example of leftist anti-Americanism. And utterly wrong on the facts.
But it was also wrong for another reason�because he is flouting our traditions. One of those traditions is that our politicians do not criticize America on foreign soil. I'm sure you can think of several reasons why this is a good custom. One of them is that America is often trying to solve problems by negotiation and peaceful pressure, rather than force. And negotiations always work better if we present a united face.
This is in fact a particularly odious thing Gore has done, because Democrats usually present themselves as being so "peace-y," and superior to warmongering Republicans. But this undercutting of our negotiations with countries like Iran and North Korea in fact makes the use of military force more likely.
Another tradition is that former Presidents (and Vice Presidents) do not criticize the current President. Again, you can imagine the various reasons for this. The Clinton/Gore Administration had an easier time in everything they tried to do because Bush, Reagan and Ford all refrained from publicly criticizing them. (Private rebukes, by the way, are proper. After the Bay of Pigs, Ike publicly supported JFK, and privately told him he'd been a damn fool.)
February 12, 2006
"A Barbie doll costs $20, but China only gets about 35 cents of that."
It's important to keep in mind that lots of things that are "Made in China" are really just assembled in China.
NYT...But often these days, "made in China" is mostly made elsewhere — by multinational companies in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States that are using China as the final assembly station in their vast global production networks.
Analysts say this evolving global supply chain, which usually tags goods at their final assembly stop, is increasingly distorting global trade figures and has the effect of turning China into a bigger trade threat than it may actually be. That kind of distortion is likely to appear again on Feb. 10, when the Commerce Department announces the American trade deficit with China. By many estimates, it swelled to a record $200 billion last year.
It may look as if China is getting the big payoff from trade. But over all, some of the biggest winners are consumers in the United States and other advanced economies who have benefited greatly as a result of the shift in the final production of toys, clothing, electronics and other goods from elsewhere in Asia to a cheaper China...
..."Basically, in the 1990's, foreign firms based in America, Europe, Japan and the rest of Asia moved their manufacturing operations to China. But the controls and therefore profits of these operations firmly rest with foreign firms. While China gets the wage benefits of globalization, it does not get to keep the profits of globalization."
..."The biggest beneficiary of all this is the United States," said Dong Tao, an economist at UBS in Hong Kong. "A Barbie doll costs $20, but China only gets about 35 cents of that."
Because so many different hands in different places touch a particular product, Mr. Dong said, you might as well throw away the trade figures.
"In a globalized world, bilateral trade figures are irrelevant," he argued. "The trade balance between the U.S. and China is as irrelevant as the trade balance between New York and Minnesota."....(Thanks to Orrin)
Trade is confusing because we still think in Industrial Age terms. We still think of a Barbie Doll as the plastic figure in the box. But most of what a Barbie is is not a thing, but a collection of ideas. Ideas created by advertisers and designers and marketers and TV producers. The person who negotiates with Target about how many inches of shelf-space the newest Barbie will get at Christmas time probably is paid more than a thousand assemblers in China.
"In a globalized world, bilateral trade figures are irrelevant," Yes. As a person with an interest in Apple Computers, I occasionally notice brief mentions of this or that Korean or Taiwanese firm being chosen to build the latest machine. But no one remembers their names, because they are not very important. iPods and Macs are mostly "made" in Silicon Valley and other high-tech neighborhoods around the globe. And in the offices of designers and advertisers in trendy enclaves in New York or London or Los Angeles.
And the chip sets are mostly "made" by engineers staring at computer screens, laying out patterns of wires and transistors, and watching how they "work" in emulations that only "exist" on computers. And "made" by the engineers who design chip fabs. The actual manufacturing is almost an afterthought.
This is especially true in the case of small batches of specialty chips. The design is sent to the manufacturer via the Internet, then sent to the chip fab from there, and soon an air-freight package of chips shows up wherever the gadget is being assembled, which is then sent to company that specializes in distribution...And possibly the people who are designing and selling the gadget don't even know where on the planet any of these steps are physically located.
February 11, 2006
My son Will (the singer) and I went on a "hard-hat tour" of what will be the new home of the SF Conservatory of Music at 50 Oak St. I was fascinated--I Iove seeing what's happening "backstage" of almost anything. Will seemed pretty interested too, though he's too cool to show it.
They've taken a historic 6-story 1907 building, and just kept two facades and a ballroom. Everything else is new, including digging an extra below-ground level and creating completely new foundations. There will be many new classrooms and practice rooms, with double walls and enough other insulation that sound from one won't impinge on the adjacent one. And three performance halls so well sound-proofed that the fire trucks on the next block can't be heard at all.
This is the largest of the three performance halls. What you see is the old ballroom, which forms the audience end of the hall. (Not my photo; this space was mostly stuffed with scaffolding today, and we had to guess at what it would look like.)
They've done a lot of really neat things. On the three top floors, where most of the classrooms and practice rooms are, the main corridor on each floor has curved walls, convex, so the corridor is narrower in the middle. This is visually exciting, creates wide areas where people can gather, makes it easier to roll pianos around the corner, and gives all the adjoining rooms a curved wall,which is much better acoustically!
They also scattered practice rooms and studios throughout the building, tucking them into odd corners. They don't want there to be any "enclaves." Everyone will have to move around and mix. The only enclave is the administrative offices, grouped around a "workroom" with all the printers and copiers...
We were on a balcony up near the ceiling of one performance hall, and could see drywall being applied 5 layers thick! And a floating ceiling being built, that hung from things like the shock-absorbers in your car. Also, the ceiling was not square to the room, but lower in one corner.
You can see more pictures here.
Keep this in reserve...
I just happened upon something I'd read before, lawyer and PowerLine blogger John Hinderaker's analysis of the legality of the NSA intercepts, from last December. You might want to bookmark it, in case you are in an argument with the loony-bats.
There's a lot of case law that clearly and explicitly says that the President has the right to warrantless wiretapping if it is primarily for gathering foreign intelligence. John lays it all out lucidly.
Update: And this article is very useful too. It points out the hypocrisy of many Democrats who are now castigating Bush for the exact things they themselves advocated when in power. For instance, it was Carter's Attorney General, Griffin Bell, who argued Truong, where...
...the court said the executive branch has the "inherent authority" to wiretap enemies such as terror plotters and is excused from obtaining warrants when surveillance is "conducted 'primarily' for foreign intelligence reasons."...
And when FISA was passed in 1978:
...When Mr. Bell testified in favor of FISA, he told Congress that while the measure doesn't explicitly acknowledge the "inherent power of the president to conduct electronic surveillance," it "does not take away the power of the president under the Constitution."(Thanks to Betsy N)
And now the odious Jimmy Carter says it is "ridiculous" for Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to say the spying is justified by Article II of the Constitution!!
Democrats are not honorable or honest people, and can't be trusted with national security.
(And it is important to keep in mind that each branch has its powers given under the Constitution, and Congress can no more take away Executive Branch powers with a law, than the President can take away Congress's powers with an Executive Order. Windbags are now trying to cloud these issues by pompously proclaiming that, "the President is not above the law!" Actually he is not above the Constitution, and any law that is Constitutional.)
February 10, 2006
Smaller than a bacterium...
This is it. The world's smallest website. And if you can navigate it, you can find the world's smallest console games. 18 x 18 pixels. Pong, Pac Man, Space Invaders... Sharp-eyed guys like me can play them. The rest of you, don't even bother to try. Don't even go there.
(Thanks to John Gruber)
I need more Turmeric...
Scott Burgess notes:
...Meanwhile on the letters page [of The Guardian], a paradox central to the "peace" movement is thrown into sharp relief.
In a letter headed "Our fears over threats to Iran", we read that: <"We Iranian-British academics and anti-war campaigners wish to express our deepest concern about the decision by the UK, France, Germany, US, Russia and China to report Iran to the UN security council."Take a moment to let that sink in. "Anti-war campaigners" are objecting to a broadly multilateral request for UN involvement to help prevent an aggressively belligerent government - one which has threatened to "wipe [another sovereign nation] off the map" - developing nuclear capability.
Signatories include Tony Benn, John Rees (National Secretary of the Respect coalition), various Iranians ... and Kate Hudson, of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
That's right - the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is vehemently opposed to UN action to encourage, erm, nuclear disarmament....
I must be losing my memory. I was sure I remembered the same crowd clobbering President Bush in 2002/2003 for not working with France, Germany, Russia, etc. and for not subordinating us to the UN (even as he was enforcing UN Resolution 1441) and for "not consulting with allies," for not being "multilateral."
Mus' be early Alzheimer's.....
If I'm too utilitarian...
If you are bored with my hum-drum practical approach to the War, or Clash of Civ's*, or whatever it is, you might like Andrea's Mock the Casbah
...Describing a Lee Harris essay to the skipper, I told him that Harris denied the ‘clash of civilizations’ thesis because a clash requires two combatants, and in this instance one side hasn’t really been fighting.
“The other side isn’t a civilization,” blurted the skipper.
February 9, 2006
But that was last year...
Just, you know, for your info...The New York Press, the paper that refused to offend religious sensibilities by publishing the Danish cartoons, and had their editors resign? Well, Amy Welborn has not forgotten another, um, religiously themed piece they did...
Title: THE 52 FUNNIEST THINGS ABOUT THE UPCOMING DEATH OF THE POPE.
This is from an interview with Milton Friedman.
NPQ | The US Treasury debt is held mainly by China, Japan and South Korea. Is the huge foreign balance of payments deficit a problem for the US and world economy?
Friedman | I don’t think so. It may well be a statistical mirage. If you look at the balance sheet, the US is heavily in debt. If you look at the income account—the amount of interest the US pays abroad—it is almost exactly equal to the amount of interest that it receives from abroad. American assets held abroad are earning a higher rate of return than foreign assets held here.
That is understandable because what is most attractive about the US to people and countries with wealth is that it can provide security, insurance really, against political instability. Nobody is afraid that the money they place in the US is at risk of expropriation or of in some other way being taken away. For this safety, the wealth holders of the world are willing to accept a lower rate of return. US assets abroad, in contrast, are riskier and thus yield a higher rate of return.
This explains why there is a rough balance in real terms. It is not clear there really is a debt. It looks like the imbalance concerns are misleading. It doesn’t worry me a bit that China and Japan hold so much US debt. In a way, it seems foolish for them to do it because they get lower returns than they might elsewhere. But that is their business...(Thanks to Orrin Judd)
I've probably mentioned Thomas Barnett's point, that we are "exporting security," and that countries like China loaning us money is actually payment for our keeping the world secure. We, for instance, have assumed the task that Britain used to hold, of keeping the world's sea lanes open and safe. And China especially benefits hugely from our military dominance, because it does not have to carry through on its bellicose threats! People say, "If China stopped loaning us money, we'd be in a terrible fix! But China would be in an even bigger one if an injured US pulled back on our defense commitments, dependent as they are on trade and exports and the movement of oil tankers.
Friedman's point is similar. Other countries buy our bonds because they are willing to pay for security, in the form of lower returns, like granny nervous about her nest egg. We are like a strong young person who can make riskier investments that pay more.
Being in debt to China is a good sign. When China starts investing its money in China, or when we have to pay what other countries pay for loans, then we can worry.
February 8, 2006
There's no elephant in the living room....
This is very interesting and important just in itself. BUT (much the way the media hides or ignores good news from Iraq or about the economy) there is something missing in this article...
WaPo: Low-fat diets do not protect women against heart attacks, strokes, breast cancer or colon cancer, a major study has found, contradicting what had once been promoted as one of the cornerstones of a healthy lifestyle.
The eight-year study of nearly 50,000 middle-age and elderly women -- by far the largest, most definitive test of cutting fat from the diet -- did not find any clear evidence that doing so reduced their risks, undermining more than a decade of advice from many doctors.
The findings run contrary to the belief that eating less fat would have myriad health benefits, which had prompted health authorities to begin prominent campaigns to get people to eat less fat and the food industry to line grocery shelves with low-fat cookies, chips and other products.
"Based on our findings, we cannot recommend that most women should follow a low-fat diet," said Jacques Rossouw of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which funded the $415 million study.
Although the study involved only women, the findings probably apply to men as well, he said....(Thanks to Orrin)
Can you guess what's missing?
You would never discover from the article that there exists an entire alternate universe of dietary theory, a place where you could have learned 30 years ago that low-fat diets don't work...
I wish I could have seen Hillary's face...
Do we, or do we, have a MAN in the White House!
Newsweek...Last year, even though Bush talked endlessly about the supposed joys of private accounts, he never proposed a specific plan to Congress and never put privatization costs in the budget. But this year, with no fanfare whatsoever, Bush stuck a big Social Security privatization plan in the federal budget proposal, which he sent to Congress on Monday.
His plan would let people set up private accounts starting in 2010 and would divert more than $700 billion of Social Security tax revenues to pay for them over the first seven years....
Can you just imagine the choking and gasping and sputtering as word of this spread among Democrats? They've been feeling so sure they had workers safely confined to the plantation for years to come, and now here comes ol' Marse Linkum, with yet another Emancipation Proclamation...I'm going to be cackling all day...
February 7, 2006
A Morsel of good news...
Remember how Chrenkoff used to do his "good news from Iraq" reports? Alas, he got a new job that didn't leave him time for them.
Here's an interesting bit of news picked up by Sachi, about the Japanese helping restore the Iraqi Marshes...
...Japan's contribution is not just money. Japanese troops have been in southern Iraq since the end of 2003, many months before the UNEP got involved in July of 2004, helping the locals to restore clean water. (The Japanese troops are also helping open medical clinics in Iraq, something Americans rarely hear about: Iraq the Model's Omar once mentioned that the new clinic in Samawa was opened largely due to Japanese troops' direct efforts. Alas, it was some time ago, and we don't have the link.)
A major problem is that the Iraqi Marsh is a salt marsh with a very high sodium content, moreso now than when it was in its prime. In order to alleviate this problem, Japan employs highly technological desalinization equipment, equipment that needs constant maintenance and occasional repairs. (One of the best desalinization programs in the world is in Israel; but for reasons which should be obvious, Israelis cannot be involved with the program in Iraq.)
The good news is that there are many educated Iraqi civil engineers that the UNEP can reliably task to operate and maintain the desalinization plants. One Japanese official candidly told Silverlining that such a program could not possibly work in a place like sub-Saharan Africa, because there simply are not enough people who could keep it running.
Because of the abdication of the Antique Media from any news reporting about Operation Iraqi Freedom (other than an obsession with death counts), Americans and Europeans know virtually nothing about the numerous reconstruction (and construction) projects going on in Iraq. You would think that the American environmentalist groups would be ecstatic that we're busily restoring wetlands in Iraq; but then, as Ann Coulter says, they would have to be on the same side as the United States...
The marshes were one of the wonders of the world, about 20,000 square kilometers, with a culture that dates back 5,000 years.Their draining by Saddam was one of the greatest ecological crimes of our time. I read Thesiger's book the Marsh Arabs when I was a boy. And long ago I read about Iraq's problems with salinity of the ground water in crop lands, so I would love to know more about that desalination effort.
There's very little info at all about what's happening. it's a vivid sign of the deep sickness of our leftists that neither the press nor the so-called environmental groups can spare any attention for this. They are taking BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome) to a new low...
Things that only exist in the doing of them.....
Commenters criticized me in the last post, although in fact they were missing the point I was trying to make--I can see now that it wasn't a very clear post.
I wrote some replies, and then I turned the replies into a new post, and then tossed that out because it didn't catch what I meant, and then I realized I was only then starting to figure out what it was I actually meant...(How's that for convoluted.)
I think what I'm trying to say, about the cartoon contretemps, is that I feel like someone who's been out repairing a road for a few years (actually of course just blogging from the comfort of home about the guys repairing a road, but after a while the borders between blog and reality begin to blur)...Anyway, there I am, day after day, out in the sun or the rainy drizzle, filling potholes and clearing ditches and cleaning up trash.
And then some dapper fellow with clean hands pops up out of nowhere, mounts a soapbox, and declares that Smooth Roads are a Fundamental Human Right! And we must have a Dramatic Protest, that will attack the Evils of Potholes and Scourge the Wicked and Exalt the Righteous and carry us all into the Promised Land of Smoothness. And how can I justify wasting my time creeping across the dirt when such a noble cause demands the full attention of all who treasure our Ancient Right to Smooth Roads!
Me, I think human rights (and a lot of other things, government, religion, love, families) are things you DO. They don't really exist except in the simple doing of them.
Right now we are being bombarded with declarations about The Right of Free Speech. But American and Coalition forces have been DOING free speech since not long after 9/11. Taking despotic lands where there is no free speech, and helping them learn how the thing actually works. And George Bush and Condi Rice have been leaning on a slew of countries, using our power and piston to push them towards more freedom. That's DOING free speech, and it's messy and slow and not very glamorous. (And bloggers are doing free speech, day-by-day in a thousand little deeds, some in places where you can go to prison for it.)
And now the cartoon thing appears (and it may end up being a good thing for free speech, and for Europe, and I sincerely wish them well). But there's unlimited quantities of hot air being expelled, by people who don't even SEE or CARE about the road menders and the patient work that been going on for years making the way smooth. That stuff is too boring and unglamorous and mucky. Not fun.
And they don't SEE that their protest may shake things up usefully, (or make things much worse) but the reality of free speech will only come through hard work on the details, through learning and teaching, through a thousand little struggles patiently fought when the goal seems impossibly distant, and there's no fun or glamour.
I DO NOT LIKE this whole cartoon-publishing campaign (and again, I wish them well and hope it helps) because it's all about ME ME ME. Venting and posturing and making big declarations and patting each other in the back. And having FUN. Sorry, not my style.
February 6, 2006
FoxNews: KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan troops opened fire on demonstrators Monday, leaving at least four people dead...
Now cartoons are killing people. It was inevitable. One hopes that Danish newspapers and cartoonists thought all this through carefully, and decided to proceed because they were ready for war and bloodshed. Likewise everyone else who is jumping on the bandwagon. I doubt it.
And it's a clear example of how America's policy is being hurt by this--those Afghan troops ought to be fighting the Taliban. Now they are fighting people who have probably been feeling fairly friendly towards the West up to now. One hopes Europe is planning to throw extra resources and troops into the War, to make up for those they are distracting from the fight....
And Unca Sam has spent vast amoounts of treasure and more than a few lives creating the Afghan Army. No doubt Denmark will be reimbursing us for the part of those resources now being squandered...
I really have not idea whether the cartoon war will do good or harm in the long run. But I'm certainly disgusted at the thoughtlessness of it. There seems to be a current of modern, especially leftist, thought that says that one should not decide things with cold calculation of risks and benefits. Impulsive is best. This is probably done to avoid difficult moral decisions--"no one can blame the Danes for anything; they just impulsively decided to make a statement about Free Speech." You can guess what my position is on that....
"Sanctimonious stateless moral rectitude"
Brian Tiemann brings up a good point...
...I’d love to hear the Leunig/Rall/Fisk/Moore/etc reasoning that exonerates Hamas and its obviously popularly supported boycott versus the poor guy at the writing desk....
....Whether the newspapers reprinting the cartoons represent widespread popular opinion or not, they're consciously turning this issue into a bigger—much bigger—conflagration, one in which the long-anticipated clash between the diametrically opposite concepts of freedom of speech and religious law will finally occur in a forum that Westerners can't ignore: our own newspapers.
Eventually it'll show up on the evening news. The mainstream media won't be able to ignore the matter any longer, or refrain from publishing the cartoons without asking themselves uncomfortable questions about whether they're rank hypocrites of the highest order, affecting a sanctimonious stateless moral rectitude when it comes to politics and war, but meekly hiding when it comes to a story that touches on sensitive religious matters.
Sooner or later, our media decisionmakers will realize that allowing themselves to be intimidated by Islamic fundamentalism, and allowing themselves to be constrained by laws and guidelines that forbid ridicule on religious grounds, would forbid the ridicule of Christianity—one of our most cherished modern pastimes....
"Cherished modern pastime--ridiculing Christianity". Ain't that the truth. Lefties may be heading into a ugly bind. On the one hand they always support appeasement in the War and are apologists for every Muslim atrocity --not because they give a damn about Muslims, but because they hate the idea of the West fighting for its culture and values. On the other hand, there are few things they cherish more than the right of smutty little minds to heap ridicule on religion, morals or traditional values.
The two haven't clashed before now, because the cartoonists have, probably unconsciously, been on board with the program. They have continued, mostly by inertia, heaping ridicule on Christians, patriots, Republicans, etc, even when plump non-Christian targets for lampoons were walking right by. But all humor is conservative, and anyone trying to be funny will be tugged by an invisible tide away from leftist pomposity. We've already seen this is the way South Park or Team America mock "political correctness" and Hollywood lefties. And in the way overtly left-wing cartoonists are not very funny.
February 5, 2006
Here's something to think about. Remember, those offensive cartoons were first published last September...
...But who wanted or caused the heat to become so turned up and why at that this particular moment?
The clue to the answers to this second question lies in a second event almost certain to occur to today, if it has not already happened by the time this blog gets posted. This is the likely decision today in Vienna by the International Atomic Energy Agency to report Iran to the UN Security Council for continuing with its programme of nuclear research. If that decision should occur, when the UN Security Council gets round to considering what form of sanctions to impose on Iran, guess to whom chairmanship of the Council will have passed. You’ve got it... plucky little Denmark.
Suddenly, the pieces fall into shape. The rumpus suddenly escalated, complete with fabricated offensive cartoons, to so enflame Muslim opinion that Denmark could be intimidated directly through a threatened Muslim boycott of its goods, or indirectly by the EU fearful of a wider boycott, into voting in favour of Iran...
"Plucky little Denmark." Yeah, well, they better stay plucky.
Update: Scott looked into this and it doesn't look very convincing--see comment.
Where are we?
A friend writes...
Isn�t it despairingly self-incriminating of radical Islam that a cartoon depicting Mohammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban would trigger protests that involved burning, window smashing and, yes, bomb-throwing?Without question. I don't know if this e-mail was a comment on my anti-cartoon posts, but I wasn't, in criticizing the cartoon campaign, saying that anyone was justified in throwing bombs, or attacking Rushdie, or whatever.
The Syrian Mufti had it right:�Amid the furor, Syria's Grand Mufti urged calm, noting the demonstration had started in a "nice and disciplined way," but then turned violent because of "some members who do not understand the language of dialogue.�It reminds me of the Catholic reaction to the De Vinci Code (mostly shoulder shrugs) compared with Islam's reaction to Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses. Dan Brown is walking the streets as a celebrated author, Rushdie spent years in hiding. These people aren't socially housebroken.
My criticisms are based on the assumption that we are at war, in which case it's fairly fruitless to discuss the rightness or wrongness of enemy actions. And a lot of the confusion on the issue is because we are not all agreed on what the scope of the war is, or who we are at war with, or whether we are really in a war! (Confusion amplified because some people will not honestly state where they stand on those distinctions. Cowards.)
And I'm also assuming that this is a war where much of the enemy block is really undecided, and potentially ready to defect and come over to our side or come out against us. And that the important issue therefore is not the rightness or wrongness of cartoons and protests, but what works, tactically and strategically. [Feel free to weigh in and tell me I'm wrong or crazy or evil. But please make your own assumptions explicit.]
....It is an old and familiar story [The Phoney War, and the rise of Churchill] which bears repeating because it illustrates how far leaders can be trapped by webs of their own making. Like the politicians of the 1930s the leaders of the West after September 11 each made their own calculation. In America's case it took the shape of thinking that it could make common cause with the most enlightened elements of Islamic civilization against fundamentalist extremists who were vying for Islam's soul. The strategy for achieving this goal, though reviled as simplistic, was anything but: America would not pick a fight with Islam itself....Now there's a lot to chew on! Do read the whole post, not just my quotes.
...It may be that Europe's calculation was more cynical. But it was equally sophisticated. It would pursue a policy of Appeasement which like Chamberlain's was calculated to drive one nuisance against another, pitting America against Islamic fundamentalism in the hopes that one would wear the other out....Like the appeasers of the 1930s it paid for its diplomatic strategy by systematically weakening itself...
...Yet the cartoon crisis has been cruelest to radical Islam because it has upset the timetable for the slow demographic conquest of Europe. It forced the crisis before the time was ripe to win an outright trial of strength. And it has deranged the carefully crafted plan to hold Europe politically neutral while the Islamists concentrated their force on their most dangerous enemy, the United States. Unless the Islamists can reverse or at least pause the process of confrontation it will find itself engaged on two fronts, against Europe and the United States simultaneously
Like all historical comparisons this one is inexact. The world of the late 1930s can never be compared to the opening decade of the 21st century. Nazism is not Islam nor is Hitler Osama Bin Laden. But I think some valid correspondences still remain between the Phoney War and the period between September 11 to the present. Both are marked by an attempt to maintain a disintegrating status quo long after it became imperative to exchange it for a new model of relationships. Both are marked by miscalculation as political leaders find themselves struggling to overtake the tide of events. Both mark the end of the last boundaries between the familiar and the dark, unknown future. What did Churchill feel, one wonders, in those desperate days when he did not know the end yet went on?....[My emph.]
February 3, 2006
It's a weapon of the war
Ethan commented, about my previous post on the cartoons:... I'm a little surprised by your reaction here as well - I learned much of this viewpoint at your feet, John...you've talked about the consequences of rewarding terrorism for years now...
Of course I'm against rewarding terrorism. But the war isn't just us vs terrorists. It's us and the terrorists fighting for the future of the Islamic world, the majority of which is not strongly committed one way or another.
I think making a stand on ths issue is, in fact, rewarding the terrorists. They are using classic guerilla tactics...commit an outrage so the defenders over-react and alienate the population. In this case the outrage is the terror threats against newspapers, and the over-reaction is the flaunting and re-printing of the cartoons, which alienates a lot of Muslims who are not terrorists. We are doing what the terrorists want. We are being suckered.
The right tactic would be to affirm the general right to free speech but, as a temporary war measure, restrict publication to deny the enemy a propaganda weapon.
This would be analogous to our reaction to 9/11. Osama probably wanted us to either flinch, or to lash out with wild violence and anti-Moslem hatred. Either response would work to his advantage. Either one would be rewarding terrorists. But we didn't play his game. Instead we went on a cold brutal relentless hunt for the terrorists, combined with efforts to win moderates and to change the tyrannies that are the underlying problem. And you can laugh at Bush's "religion of peace" malarky, but that is a calculated attempt to pull moderate Muslims to our side (even if moderate Muslims are not in fact particularly moderate or peaceful). It's a weapon.
That's been the right tack, in my opinion. Cold and disdainful towards our enemies, never inflammatory or provocative. Treat 'em like termites to be exterminated, not men worth getting het up about. And bend over backwards to attract the others, be jolly Uncle Samta Claus...as a weapon of the war.
War always requires some curtailments of civil liberties, and in this case (yes, yes I know it is not even a remote possibility) I think freedom of press should be restricted as a weapon against our enemies. (As it also should be in the case of the horrid traitors at the NYT and WaPo who routinely publish leaked classified information. Them I'd sent to Gitmo in an instant. Lafayette Baker, where are you when your country needs you...)
Update: And there's another thing. Defying your enemies is good, as long as you are willing to fight, if it comes to that. I feel confident about Americans, but those Europeans are picking a fight they are not prepared to go through with. If you defy killers, you better be willing to kill some people. Or you've just made things much worse.
And wars are about winning, and part of that is chosing your ground. Our enemies chose this ground, and they knew what they were doing. Now we are doing what they want, lining up to fight in the cause of adolescent trash. Brilliant, just brilliant.
Remember the poem? You should...
...And how can man die better,
Than when facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers
And the temples of his gods?...
What a come-down from then to now. In these strange depraved last days of Western civilization, we defend tacky cartoons...
"The merits of the case have almost nothing to do with it..."
Charlene is going to disagree totally. but I think this makes sense. Paul Jaminet writes, on our State Department's condemnation of the anti-Mohammed cartoons:
...Michelle Malkin doesn't like this, but it's just good sense.
The Bush administration is fighting a war against a coalition of totalitarian nations that is building a mass-production line for over a hundred nuclear bombs a year, is maintaining global terrorist networks, and already sponsors terrorism against the U.S. and our allies. In this war, our strongest and most helpful allies have been Muslim states and ordinary Muslims in places like Iraq and Afghanistan who long to live in freedom; and we are going to need further help from our Muslim friends if we are to defeat the Muslim portion of the enemy coalition (i.e., Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and perhaps others).
In contrast, Europe has been an indifferent ally at best, and at times has aided our enemies. When threatened, they tend to fold, as Spain did. Others, like France, need to be bribed or blackmailed for even little bits of help.
In a conflict like this, which may have decades yet to run, we have to side with the friends and allies who have helped us in the past, who are present in the main theater of action, and whom we will need to rely on in the future, against half-hearted friends who are outside the main theater of action and will contribute little to victory in any case. The merits of the case have almost nothing to do with it...
If the cartoon controversy were to finally arouse Old Europe from its stupor and cause them to be willing to fight for things they believe in, then good. But it's not going to happen. Old Europe is dead, and isn't going to come back to life.
In addition, I find (Don't bother to tell me I'm old-fashioned and a stuffed-shirt; that goes without saying) the idea of cartoons mocking religions, or any ancient and serious institutions, very distasteful. I think having smart-alecky punk journalists lampoon an ancient faith that is held by a billion or so people (though it is not a faith I think very highly of) is too much like seeing dirty children spray-painting graffiti on some public building.
I think it's bad policy to support such things. We need to align ourselves with the places and peoples that have a future. And I suspect that pretty much excludes the places where anything profound or noble or revered causes the local sophisticates to sneer, or roll on the floor laughing....
John D. Rockefeller is long gone...
From a good piece by Ben Stein..
...Meanwhile, why is it so bad for oil companies to make a profit, even a big profit? That profit doesn't go into the pockets of Dr. Evil. It doesn't go to Saddam Hussein (not anymore). It goes to tens of millions of stockholders who use the dividends and the increase in share price to pay for their RV's and retirements and their (ungrateful) kids' college education. John D. Rockefeller is long gone. Anyone in America with a few twenties in his pocket can become a shareholder of a big oil company and share in those profits. Those profits go to teachers' unions and policemen's unions and to any person on this earth who cares to speculate that the big profits will continue. Or, as my father once said to me, and I have said before, "If you think oil company profits are obscene, buy stock in the oil companies."
Then a huge slice of the profits go to federal and state taxes, running into the tens of billions of dollars. Oil companies in general pay between 30 and 40 percent of their profits in tax. That pays for a lot of textbooks (that no doubt teach how bad oil companies are) and a lot of hospitals for rehabilitating wounded Marines...(Thanks to Dean)
A lot of people are simply not sane when the subject is oil. People who happily pay $3 for a quart of drinking water (which probably flowed out of the ground ready-to-drink) think they are being plundered by ogres if they pay $3 for a gallon of gasoline (which may have been extracted from deep beneath the ocean floor by a billion dollar drilling platform, transported in a $100 million ship, re-made in a $500 million refinery.)
And we all own the oil companies. The lefties who denounce "big oil" almost certainly own oil stocks as part of their pension plan or retirement investments.
But though they endure the profits as a necessary burden for themselves, at least liberals want to help others! That's why they blocked Social Security Reform. They didn't want ordinary workers to be tainted by the evil of high profits and corrupted by the the sordid riches of capitalism. Better they should stay in their proper place, dependent on government and the leadership of the wise...
(Dean also provided a link to a breakdown in who owns Exxon shares. Very interesting. We own some, via the Fidelity Contrafund.)
February 2, 2006
All you need to know...
AP: U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday offered a grim assessment of Kosovo's progress toward stability, saying in a report that the region had fallen behind in efforts to create a multiethnic and democratic society.
Annan's report to the U.N. Security Council said there had been little headway in efforts to achieve a series of benchmarks including the rights of minorities, ending corruption and the return of refugees.
Why? Hmmm? Because...
...The United Nations has administered Kosovo since NATO's 1999 air war against Yugoslavia...(Thanks to Bill)
That's alll you need to know. Kosovo is probably doomed. And what group. by the way, has been under the tutelage of the UN longer than any other? Clues: They are really Jordanians or Egyptians, but they've cobbled together a phony "nationality" that starts with a "P." Thy are beloved of Jew-haters everywhere, for their important work as proxy Jew-killers. They've just used the democratic process to toss out a terrorist rulling party in favor of a new terrorist ruling party...
If you support the United nations, you are supporting evil.
I just. don't. believe. this...
From the Sidney Morning Herald:
Police are staggered by the amount of money gullible Australians are losing to Nigerian investment scammers.
The long-running internet-based rort has netted more than $7 million from Queenslanders alone, and the loss Australia-wide is likely to be far higher, police say.
Among those being duped are financial advisers, lawyers and university professors, and one person had put $2.2 million into the hands of scammers over the past two years.
Inspector Brian Hay, from the Queensland Police Service Fraud and Corporate Crime Group, said yesterday he would anticipate the trend being replicated across the country.
"This is not geographically bound by state borders - this would be everywhere," Insp Hay said.
Of the 26 Queensland victims contacted by police over the past two months 25 had lost their funds....(Thanks to Tim Blair)
Is the same thing as those spam e-mails I get, purporting to be from some deposed Nigerian leader wanting help transferring funds? Or is there some other "Nigerian" scam I don't know about? It can't be the same thing; the article says "investment scammers," so presumably it is about investing in something, not helping ex-general Obokubambo's widow with money transfers.
Ah ha! I just didn't read far enough:
...Lured by the promise of a percentage of secret oil venture investments or government contracts with guaranteed high returns, scam victims are asked for money to bribe local officials and secure lucrative contracts...
Well, of course. if someone offers you a chance to get in a secret oil venture, you'd be a fool to pass up the chance...I guess this could be considered a form of foreign aid.
February 1, 2006
"undiluted marxist terms"
Peter Burnett writes, after quoting an article about yet another lying history textbook ("...Students learning about the colonisation of Australia are given a black and white portrait, so to speak. Black is good. White is bad..."):
It is fascinating to watch how quickly so-called progressive efforts to separate historical fact from myth in the name of “objective truth” descend simply into a self-abasing and uncritical embrace of other peoples' myths. Even many modern conservatives seem to have great difficulty in seeing two thousand years of Judeo-Christian tradition in other than undiluted marxist terms–-one big cruel social exploitation and mind control program.
The leftist addiction to West-bashing stems in part from the fact that, in order to deflect us from confronting directly the spiritual barrenness and material oppressions of the brave new world they promise us, they must inflame and shame constantly by convincing us we are in the grip of organic tyrannies and exploitations that our unprincipled ancestors wrought for cruel and selfish reasons and which cannot be thrown off until we disown our pasts completely. Whatever is actually going on the world (or whatever was), these folks spend 24/7 marching at Selma, confronting absentee landlords or acting as Galileo's defense lawyer.
Were our students protected from their anti-intellectual indoctrination and taught an honest history, particularly an honest 20th century history, the leftist project might be as authoritative and popular as social credit.
I notice that Natalie Solent is posting various back-and-forths of a debate over whether science or religion has done more harm in the world. Of course it's an impossible question to determine, because much of what gets credited to science is actually engineering, or economic progress using existing technology in new and more efficient ways. And until recent centuries religion was intermingled with everything else, and so, for instance, a king's "white-collar" staff was his chancellery (chapel), staffed by clerks (clerics). And his chief minister might be a bishop.
But what's really interesting about her debate is that, at least by my hasty reading, it is couched wholly in secular terms. Saving souls from sin and damnation earns no points. Giving meaning to life earns no points. If science prolongs lives, that's a plus. But if the secular-rationalism that is often considered (somewhat mistakenly, I think) as "science" renders those lives less worth living, less sweet, less beautiful, that's excluded from the argument. And if, as some of us are rather inclined to suspect, the decline of Christianity and Judaism in Europe is causally linked to the ongoing European demographic collapse, then "science" may be helping to obliterate a large chunk of Western Civilization, without that being factored into the debate...
And it usually doesn't get mentioned in this sort of discussion, but science itself is a faith. It rests on the assumption that the natural world it studies is "real." Is not a dream or an illusion. But science cannot ever prove that this is so.
But it looks like Natalie's debate is grounded on the assumption that science is known to be true, and religion is presumed to be false. (If the debate were held more the a few hundred years ago, the assumptions might have been just the opposite.)
In fact science can't "prove" anything, not only because it's underlying faith can't be tested, but also because the method of investigation it uses, called Induction, never proves anything. Induction collects evidence, and generalizes. but there is always the possibility of finding more evidence, or finding that the evidence is some sort of illusion.
We all accept, in a common-sensical way, that when Dr Johnson kicked the rock, and felt pain in his toe, he proved that the rock exists, and gave us a useful bit of data. But he didn't. And the great rigor and prestige of science, and its many successes, have led us to the common-sense position that what Johnson felt was real, but when a person says he "feels the Holy Spirit," this data should be discarded as "unscientific." Maybe so, but using science in that way is not science, it's what you might call science-ism.
I suspect that what Prof. Grayling (whose writings started the debate) is really up to is not a search for truth, but something like what that textbook Burnett was discussing was up to. Religion (which is almost extinct in Britain anyway) must be attacked and demonized to draw attention away from the "spiritual barrenness and material oppressions" of the world people like him have created.