August 31, 2006
"As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust: So there are other qualities in human nature, which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form. Were the pictures which have been drawn by the political jealousy of some among us, faithful likenesses of the human character, the inference would be that there is not sufficient virtue among men for self-government; and that nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another."
-- James Madison (Federalist No. 55, 15 February 1788)
'The damn glacier is melting.'
Michael LeGault, over at Political Mavens, has some pretty interesting things to say about global warming and the rush to judgement that many people are so heavily invested in.
Like the theory of evolution, the theory of man-induced global warming is not testable. Unlike the theory of evolution, man-induced global warming has far less evidence to support it.
We have evidence of a slight warming trend in global surface temperatures (less than 1 degree Celsius) over the past 100 years, but there is scads of open debate in the scientific community about the probable causes. Glaciers began receding in the late 19th century, well before the approximate 25% increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, a by-product of the burning of fossil fuels, an indisputable sign that the earth began warming naturally as it came out of a period know as the Little Ice Age.
And remember carbon dioxide is less than 2% of the total of combined greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Water vapor constitutes 98% of the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere and has been constant.
If you overlook his penchant for bashing Al Gore, the Left, and the media, you will discern some useful nuggets of information. I recommend it.
Advance to the rear
Michael Portillo is not kind in his assessment of France's recent ventures in international diplomacy.
Now that British and American forces are bogged down in Iraq, this should be the moment for the French cock to crow. But what exactly has the distinctive French alternative produced for the world or France? The softer European approach to Iran over its nuclear programme was decisively rebuffed, and Europe has had to join America in calling for sanctions. When France was invited to provide leadership over Lebanon, it vacillated. Its offer of 2,000 soldiers remains underwhelming. Chirac’s pro-Arab policies have not even bought off Muslim discontent at home, as the urban riots showed.
Last week a former junior member of the Bush administration, Jeff Babbin, likened undertaking a military operation without the French to going on a deer shoot without an accordion — you just leave behind the noisy useless baggage.
Humour notwithstanding, he is spot on.
My sister tipped me off to this website. It's selling t-shirts sporting graphics and text that is supportive of our troops overseas. TakePride also takes at least 20% of sales and donates them to charities that specifically support our troops and their families.
I highly recommend that you visit TakePride and browse around. The slideshow has some really nice pictures of our troops doing what they do best -- protecting you and me from harm.
And you might just find a tee that you'd like to buy -- to show the world your support for the noble men and women who go in harm's way on our behalf.
August 30, 2006
"Harmony in the married state is the very first object to be aimed at."
-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to Mary Jefferson Eppes, 7 January 1798)
More 'Random Thoughts'
Thomas Sowell's 'Random Thoughts' are always delightful. These are no different. I've cherry-picked three of them:
Someone said that good judgment comes from experience -- which in turn comes from bad judgment.
Some people are so busy being clever that they don't have time to be intelligent.
Little kids can be adorable when they are asleep. Or maybe we are just so glad that they are asleep that this biases our feelings.
Read the rest . . .
Lori Lowenthal Marcus, in the current edition of The Weely Standard, describes some disturbing actions by UNIFIL during the recent Israel-Hezbollah conflict that are decidedly not neutral.
UNIFIL--the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, a nearly 2,000-man blue-helmet contingent that has been present on the Lebanon-Israel border since 1978--is officially neutral. Yet, throughout the recent war, it posted on its website for all to see precise information about the movements of Israeli Defense Forces soldiers and the nature of their weaponry and materiel, even specifying the placement of IDF safety structures within hours of their construction. New information was sometimes only 30 minutes old when it was posted, and never more than 24 hours old.
Meanwhile, UNIFIL posted not a single item of specific intelligence regarding Hezbollah forces. Statements on the order of Hezbollah "fired rockets in large numbers from various locations" and Hezbollah's rockets "were fired in significantly larger numbers from various locations" are as precise as its coverage of the other side ever got.
Go read the whole thing.
Perception in Iraq
America's Majority: Daily Dispatch cites an Iraqi opinion poll that indicates that Iraqi's are optimistic about the future of their country. More so than Americans are, it seems.
In a recent poll, more Iraqis, who live in Iraq, say Iraq is headed [in] the right direction than Americans who merely watch TV reports about Iraq or read newspaper reports about Iraq.
Amid the drumbeat of so-called sectarian violence from the Legacy Media, one would think that Iraqis would be [ready] to throw in the towel or at least throwdown with each other at a moments notice.
But that is not the case.
August 29, 2006
"I can truly say I had rather be at Mount Vernon with a friend or two about me, than to be attended at the Seat of Government by the Officers of State and the Representatives of every Power in Europe."
-- George Washington (letter to David Stuart, 15 June 1790)
When it comes to the most recent Israel-Hezbollah conflict, Arab writers are beginning to declare that Hezbollah did not win, after all.
By controlling the flow of information from Lebanon throughout the conflict, and help from all those who disagree with U.S. policies for different reasons, Hezbollah may have won the information war in the West. In Lebanon, the Middle East and the broader Muslim space, however, the picture is rather different.
Go read the whole thing (it's in the extended entry, below).
Hezbollah Didn't Win
Arab writers are beginning to lift the veil on what really happened in Lebanon.
BY AMIR TAHERI
Friday, August 25, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT
The way much of the Western media tells the story, Hezbollah won a great victory against Israel and the U.S., healed the Sunni-Shiite rift, and boosted the Iranian mullahs' claim to leadership of the Muslim world. Portraits of Hassan Nasrallah, the junior mullah who leads the Lebanese branch of this pan-Shiite movement, have adorned magazine covers in the West, hammering in the message that this child of the Khomeinist revolution is the new hero of the mythical "Arab Street."
Probably because he watches a lot of CNN, Iran's "Supreme Guide," Ali Khamenei, also believes in "a divine victory." Last week he asked 205 members of his Islamic Majlis to send Mr. Nasrallah a message, congratulating him for his "wise and far-sighted leadership of the Ummah that produced the great victory in Lebanon."
By controlling the flow of information from Lebanon throughout the conflict, and help from all those who disagree with U.S. policies for different reasons, Hezbollah may have won the information war in the West. In Lebanon, the Middle East and the broader Muslim space, however, the picture is rather different.
Let us start with Lebanon.
Immediately after the U.N.-ordained ceasefire started, Hezbollah organized a series of firework shows, accompanied by the distribution of fruits and sweets, to celebrate its victory. Most Lebanese, however, finding the exercise indecent, stayed away. The largest "victory march" in south Beirut, Hezbollah's stronghold, attracted just a few hundred people.
Initially Hezbollah had hesitated between declaring victory and going into mourning for its "martyrs." The latter course would have been more in harmony with Shiite traditions centered on the cult of Imam Hussain's martyrdom in 680 A.D. Some members of Hezbollah wished to play the martyrdom card so that they could accuse Israel, and through it the U.S., of war crimes. They knew that it was easier for Shiites, brought up in a culture of eternal victimhood, to cry over an imagined calamity than laugh in the joy of a claimed victory.
Politically, however, Hezbollah had to declare victory for a simple reason: It had to pretend that the death and desolation it had provoked had been worth it. A claim of victory was Hezbollah's shield against criticism of a strategy that had led Lebanon into war without the knowledge of its government and people. Mr. Nasrallah alluded to this in television appearances, calling on those who criticized him for having triggered the war to shut up because "a great strategic victory" had been won.
The tactic worked for a day or two. However, it did not silence the critics, who have become louder in recent days. The leaders of the March 14 movement, which has a majority in the Lebanese Parliament and government, have demanded an investigation into the circumstances that led to the war, a roundabout way of accusing Hezbollah of having provoked the tragedy. Prime Minister Fuad Siniora has made it clear that he would not allow Hezbollah to continue as a state within the state. Even Michel Aoun, a maverick Christian leader and tactical ally of Hezbollah, has called for the Shiite militia to disband.
Mr. Nasrallah followed his claim of victory with what is known as the "Green Flood"(Al-sayl al-akhdhar). This refers to the massive amounts of crisp U.S. dollar notes that Hezbollah is distributing among Shiites in Beirut and the south. The dollars from Iran are ferried to Beirut via Syria and distributed through networks of militants. Anyone who can prove that his home was damaged in the war receives $12,000, a tidy sum in wartorn Lebanon.
The Green Flood has been unleashed to silence criticism of Mr. Nasrallah and his masters in Tehran. But the trick does not seem to be working. "If Hezbollah won a victory, it was a Pyrrhic one," says Walid Abi-Mershed, a leading Lebanese columnist. "They made Lebanon pay too high a price--for which they must be held accountable."
Hezbollah is also criticized from within the Lebanese Shiite community, which accounts for some 40% of the population. Sayyed Ali al-Amin, the grand old man of Lebanese Shiism, has broken years of silence to criticize Hezbollah for provoking the war, and called for its disarmament. In an interview granted to the Beirut An-Nahar, he rejected the claim that Hezbollah represented the whole of the Shiite community. "I don't believe Hezbollah asked the Shiite community what they thought about [starting the] war," Mr. al-Amin said. "The fact that the masses [of Shiites] fled from the south is proof that they rejected the war. The Shiite community never gave anyone the right to wage war in its name."
There were even sharper attacks. Mona Fayed, a prominent Shiite academic in Beirut, wrote an article also published by An-Nahar last week. She asks: Who is a Shiite in Lebanon today? She provides a sarcastic answer: A Shiite is he who takes his instructions from Iran, terrorizes fellow believers into silence, and leads the nation into catastrophe without consulting anyone. Another academic, Zubair Abboud, writing in Elaph, a popular Arabic-language online newspaper, attacks Hezbollah as "one of the worst things to happen to Arabs in a long time." He accuses Mr. Nasrallah of risking Lebanon's existence in the service of Iran's regional ambitions.
Before he provoked the war, Mr. Nasrallah faced growing criticism not only from the Shiite community, but also from within Hezbollah. Some in the political wing expressed dissatisfaction with his overreliance on the movement's military and security apparatus. Speaking on condition of anonymity, they described Mr. Nasrallah's style as "Stalinist" and pointed to the fact that the party's leadership council (shura) has not held a full session in five years. Mr. Nasrallah took all the major decisions after clearing them with his Iranian and Syrian contacts, and made sure that, on official visits to Tehran, he alone would meet Iran's "Supreme Guide," Ali Khamenei.
Mr. Nasrallah justified his style by claiming that involving too many people in decision-making could allow "the Zionist enemy" to infiltrate the movement. Once he had received the Iranian green light to provoke the war, Mr. Nasrallah acted without informing even the two Hezbollah ministers in the Siniora cabinet or the 12 Hezbollah members of the Lebanese Parliament.
Mr. Nasrallah was also criticized for his acknowledgement of Ali Khamenei as Marjaa al-Taqlid (Source of Emulation), the highest theological authority in Shiism. Highlighting his bay'aah (allegiance), Mr. Nasrallah kisses the man's hand each time they meet. Many Lebanese Shiites resent this because Mr. Khamenei, a powerful politician but a lightweight in theological terms, is not recognized as Marjaa al-Taqlid in Iran itself. The overwhelming majority of Lebanese Shiites regard Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, in Iraq, or Ayatollah Muhammad-Hussein Fadhlallah, in Beirut, as their "Source of Emulation."
Some Lebanese Shiites also question Mr. Nasrallah's strategy of opposing Prime Minister Siniora's "Project for Peace," and instead advancing an Iranian-backed "Project of Defiance." The coalition led by Mr. Siniora wants to build Lebanon into a haven of peace in the heart of a turbulent region. His critics dismiss this as a plan "to create a larger Monaco." Mr. Nasrallah's "Project of Defiance," however, is aimed at turning Lebanon into the frontline of Iranian defenses in a war of civilizations between Islam (led by Tehran) and the "infidel," under American leadership. "The choice is between the beach and the bunker," says Lebanese scholar Nadim Shehadeh. There is evidence that a majority of Lebanese Shiites would prefer the beach.
There was a time when Shiites represented an underclass of dirt-poor peasants in the south and lumpen elements in Beirut. Over the past 30 years, however, that picture has changed. Money sent from Shiite immigrants in West Africa (where they dominate the diamond trade), and in the U.S. (especially Michigan), has helped create a prosperous middle class of Shiites more interested in the good life than martyrdom à la Imam Hussain. This new Shiite bourgeoisie dreams of a place in the mainstream of Lebanese politics and hopes to use the community's demographic advantage as a springboard for national leadership. Hezbollah, unless it ceases to be an instrument of Iranian policies, cannot realize that dream.
The list of names of those who never endorsed Hezbollah, or who broke with it after its Iranian connections became too apparent, reads like a Who's Who of Lebanese Shiism. It includes, apart from the al-Amins, families such as the al-As'ad, the Osseiran, the al-Khalil, the Hamadah, the Murtadha, the Sharafeddin, the Fadhlallah, the Mussawis, the Hussainis, the Shamsuddin and the Ata'allahs.
Far from representing the Lebanese national consensus, Hezbollah is a sectarian group backed by a militia that is trained, armed and controlled by Iran. In the words of Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of the Iranian daily Kayhan, "Hezbollah is 'Iran in Lebanon.' " In the 2004 municipal elections, Hezbollah won some 40% of the votes in the Shiite areas, the rest going to its rival Amal (Hope) movement and independent candidates. In last year's general election, Hezbollah won only 12 of the 27 seats allocated to Shiites in the 128-seat National Assembly--despite making alliances with Christian and Druze parties and spending vast sums of Iranian money to buy votes.
Hezbollah's position is no more secure in the broader Arab world, where it is seen as an Iranian tool rather than as the vanguard of a new Nahdha (Awakening), as the Western media claim. To be sure, it is still powerful because it has guns, money and support from Iran, Syria and Hate America International Inc. But the list of prominent Arab writers, both Shiite and Sunni, who have exposed Hezbollah for what it is--a Khomeinist Trojan horse--would be too long for a single article. They are beginning to lift the veil and reveal what really happened in Lebanon.
Having lost more than 500 of its fighters, and with almost all of its medium-range missiles destroyed, Hezbollah may find it hard to sustain its claim of victory. "Hezbollah won the propaganda war because many in the West wanted it to win as a means of settling score with the United States," says Egyptian columnist Ali al-Ibrahim. "But the Arabs have become wise enough to know TV victory from real victory."
Mr. Taheri is author of "L'Irak: Le Dessous Des Cartes" (Editions Complexe, 2002).
[Used with permission from OpinionJournal.com, a web site from Dow Jones & Company, Inc.]
The first battle of the fourth world war
Script writer Dan Gordon, who served as a captain in the Israel Defense Force reserves during this latest conflict with Hezbollah, has written a very interesting essay at The American Thinker about this particular fight and future ones to come. And he calls them like he sees them.
Contrary to what is now the accepted wisdom in the media, Hezb’allah in its recent offensive against Israel neither “badly bloodied the Israel Defense Force,” nor “fought it to a standstill” in Southern Lebanon. In fact, the opposite is the case. By any legitimate measure Hezb’allah was handed a resounding military defeat by the IDF in the recent fighting, and while the cancer that is Hezb’allah was not cured by Israel’s soldiers, it was put into remission.
Hezb’allah is not your father’s terrorist organization. This is not a group of loosely affiliated cells of would-be hijackers or suicide bombers. Hezb’allah is a terrorist army, trained like an army, organized like an army, funded and equipped like an army, with one glaring difference. The main use of its arsenal was terror aimed at Israel’s civilian population while hiding behind Lebanon’s civilian population. Its intent was to cause maximum civilian casualties amongst both. This was not by accident. This was by design.
There is so much more. Highly recommended.
David Ignatius, currently in Iraq, has an op-ed up at Real Clear Politics with an assessment of how Iraq is progressing toward independence. Here's his conclusion:
I don't feel quite so optimistic, but I think Abizaid is right in urging a sensible, deliberate policy to reduce the American presence -- as opposed to a pell-mell rush for the exit. The situation in Iraq is difficult, but the sense of panic in the Washington debate just doesn't match the situation here. It's bad, but it's not hurtling out of control.
Americans should be worried about Iraq but not so much that they take rash actions that would end up hurting American interests in the Middle East at a delicate time. We'll be out of Iraq, one way or another, over the next few years. Rushing the process because of American impatience would make a bad situation even worse.
Go read what led up to that conclusion.
August 28, 2006
"The members of the legislative department...are numerous. They are distributed and dwell among the people at large. Their connections of blood, of friendship, and of acquaintance embrace a great proportion of the most influential part of the society...they are more immediately the confidential guardians of their rights and liberties."
-- James Madison (Federalist No. 50, 5 February 1788)
What Congress will look like . . .
[With apologies to Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit.]
The next war of the world
Wretchard, over at the Belmont Club has a good post up about Niall Feguson's essay, 'The Next War of the World'.
The three factors which Ferguson believes produced the 20th century wars which killed 170 million people -- 1 person in 22 -- were "ethnic disintegration, economic volatility, and empires in decline": the three E's. Often these factors worked in concert. As 20th century 'empires' collapsed they uncorked ethnic tensions which had heretofore lain dormant. These rapid changes were often accompanied by economic upheavals. The result, if not war, were its immediate precursors. The three E's started the most destructive conflicts in the history of the world.
He goes on to point out these same indicators are present in the Middle East now, and then discusses the roles that empire-seekers like Iran and France (in these cases they have the desire but not the power to become empires) are now taking in the world politic. And America (which does have the power) fervently seeks to avoid becoming an empire.
France and Iran, to name just two powers, may have the appetite for empire but not the teeth. And America by contrast and despite Niall Ferguson's longing for a strong hand in the world, may have the teeth but not the appetite. If the European Union project could [be]called putting a French jockey atop a German horse, the attempt to create an "international" world order might be described as a scheme to harness American muscle to a transnational agenda. Unfortunately and to the everlasting resentment of internationalists, the US refused to put its economy and military at the service of its environmental, cultural and political projects.
And because of these factors, and others, World War IV may well be in the offing -- and it will begin in the Middle East.
"We will have peace with the Arabs when they will love their children more than they hate us.”
-- Golda Meir, 1972
August 27, 2006
"I am free to acknowledge that His Powers are full great, and greater than I was disposed to make them. Nor, Entre Nous, do I believe they would have been so great had not many of the members cast their eyes towards General Washington as President; and shaped their Ideas of the Powers to be given to a President, by their opinions of his Virtue."
-- Pierce Butler (letter to Weedon Butler, 5 May 1778)
Jill Carroll -- her story
The Christian Science Monitor has published Jill Carroll's story of being a hostage of Sunni insurgents in Iraq. The story is fully online and includes text and video, along with photos and related news stories from the period of her captivity and since.
Iran and the Bomb
FrontPage Magazine has a disturbing interview up of a Danish investigator who says he has information that Iran bought three nuclear warheads from Kazakhstan in 1991.
In autumn 1991 Nursultan Nazarbayev, the president of Khazakhstan, sold three nuclear warheads to the Iranians. The Iranians wanted to use them as a prototype for their own bomb manufacturing. The price was said to have been 7.5 billion USD. Whether this amount is true or just the fantasies of a less paid government official, I cannot verify. The amount was to cover all bribes and kick-offs and military protection during transport. Every country involved had demanded their fair share of the deal.
Anyway, the warheads were removed from a military depot somewhere in Kazakhstan and transported by train down to Makhachkala in Daghestan. Here they were reloaded onto huge trucks and then taken through the Caucasian region and into Turkey. In the city of Dogubeyazit the Iranians met the convoy and took over. The three vehicles were then driven by Iranian drivers down to the border post Bazargan, where they entered Iranian territory.
The warheads were brought down to Teheran and parked in the military campus Lavizan. Here they were seen by a soldier who later defected to Israel and told the story to the Israeli intelligence services who at that time were unable to verify the matter further. Various rumours have been circulating ever since. Some stories say two bombs, some say four. The correct number, however, is three.
You should read the whole thing.
[Hat tip to Annika.]
August 26, 2006
"The multiplication of public offices, increase of expense beyond income, growth and entailment of a public debt, are indications soliciting the employment of the pruning knife."
-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to Spencer Roane, 9 March 1821)
The Bush Doctrine
Norman Podhoretz has a comprehensive essay up about President Bush's foreign policy doctrine from 2000 to now. Here's how he starts:
In recent months, we have been bombarded with reports of the death of the Bush Doctrine. Of course, there have been many such reports since the doctrine was first promulgated at the start of what I persist in calling World War IV (the Cold War being World War III). Almost all of them were written by the realists and liberal internationalists within the old foreign-policy establishment, and they all turned out to resemble the reports of Mark Twain's death--which, he famously said, had been "greatly exaggerated." Nothing daunted by this, the critics and enemies of President Bush are now at it yet again. This time, however, their ranks have been swollen by a number of traditional conservatives who were never comfortable with the doctrine bearing his name and who have now moved from discomfort to outright opposition.
But what is genuinely new, and more surprising, is the entry into this picture of a significant number of my fellow neoconservatives. As the Bush Doctrine's greatest enthusiasts, they would be much happier if they could go on pointing to signs of life, but so disillusioned have they become that a British journalist can say that, to them, "The words 'Rice' and 'Bush' have all but become the Beltway equivalent of barnyard expletives." No wonder that they have now taken to composing obituary notices of their own.
Are we then to conclude that the latest reports of the death of the Bush Doctrine are not "greatly," if indeed at all, exaggerated, and that it has at long last really been put to rest?
Though the essay is lengthy, it is well worth reading because it gives a great deal of well-researched background information. I highly recommend it.
Pluto, we hardly knew ye
The International Planetary Union has hammered out the characteristics that define what a "planet" is, and Pluto no longer qualifies.
Much-maligned Pluto doesn't make the grade under the new rules for a planet: "a celestial body that is in orbit around the sun, has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a ... nearly round shape, and has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit."
Pluto is automatically disqualified because its oblong orbit overlaps with Neptune's.
Pluto does qualify for the newly-designated "dwarf planet" classification, however.
Does the solar system suddenly feel smaller to you?
August 25, 2006
"What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value."
-- Thomas Paine (The American Crisis, No. 1, 19 December 1776)
Cox & Forkum has a pertinent cartoon up illustrating the carrot and stick approach to
appeasement negotiations with Iran:
More urgency for closed borders, please?!
Bill Crawford at All Things Conservative quotes from a news story that describes our porous southern border. And that Arab-speaking people are crossing it regularly.
Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez of Zapata County, Texas told Cybercast News Service that Iranian currency, military badges in Arabic, jackets and other clothing are among the items that have been discovered along the banks of the Rio Grande River. The sheriff also said there are a substantial number of individuals crossing the southern border into the U.S. who are not Mexican. He described the individuals in question as well-funded and able to pay so-called "coyotes" - human smugglers - large sums of money for help gaining illegal entry into the U.S.
Is anyone in Washington listening?
Tongue firmly planted in cheek
Scott Ott, over at Scrappleface has posted a bogus news bulletin about Kofi Annan's assurances of world peace.
Annan Rejects Sanctions, Offers Talks with 12th Imam
By Scott Ott, Editor-in-Chief, ScrappleFace.com
News Fairly Unbalanced. We Report. You Decipher.
(2006-08-22) — As Iran’s president prepared today to reject international efforts to halt his nation’s uranium enrichment program, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan rejected calls for sanctions against the Islamic Republic and offered direct negotiations with the long-awaited 12th Imam.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has spoken of the prophesied 12th or ‘Hidden’ Imam, who is to usher in the end of the world. Many believe he would return on August 22, the alleged anniversary of the night flight of the prophet Muhammad on the winged horse Buraq, first to Jerusalem, then to heaven and back (Koran XVII.1).
Mr. Annan said he believes that “direct negotiations with the Hidden Imam can defuse all of this talk of the end of the world, which I’m confident is nothing more than a bargaining chip.”
In any case, the world’s end is expected to have little effect on the work of the United Nations, according to Mr. Annan.
“The U.N. will continue to be just as effective at resolving conflicts and ensuring world peace as it was before the end of the world,” he said.
I think Mr. Ott has accurately characterized many Americans' frustrations regarding Kofi Annan and the United Nations.
August 24, 2006
"When you assemble from your several counties in the Legislature, were every member to be guided only by the apparent interest of his county, government would be impracticable. There must be a perpetual accomodation and sacrifice of local advantage to general expediency."
-- Alexander Hamilton (speech at the New York Ratifying Convention, June 1788)
Thomas Sowell makes some somber comments on what will happen when terorists get their hands on nukes. And he talks about the futility of our "land for peace" approaches to placating the implacable terrorists.
Send not to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.
This is not just another in the long history of military threats. The Soviet Union, despite its massive nuclear arsenal, could be deterred by our own nuclear arsenal. But suicide bombers cannot be deterred.
Fanatics filled with hate cannot be either deterred or bought off, whether Hezbollah, Hamas or the government of Iran.
The endlessly futile efforts to bring peace to the Middle East with concessions fundamentally misconceive what forces are at work.
Hate and humiliation are key forces that cannot be bought off by "trading land for peace," by a "Palestinian homeland" or by other such concessions that might have worked in other times and places.
Humiliation and hate go together. Why humiliation? Because a once-proud, dynamic culture in the forefront of world civilizations, and still carrying a message of their own superiority to "infidels" today, is painfully visible to the whole world as a poverty-stricken and backward region, lagging far behind in virtually every field of human endeavor.
Go read the whole thing.
Israeli peace activists
Michael Totten had an interesting discussion with two Israeli peace activists earlier this month. One thing that jumped out at me was a comment by one of the activists about the common wisdom of the region:
" . . . The Israeli peace movement believes that Israel would not exist if we didn’t defend it. There is a slogan that’s going around: If the Arabs put down their arms, there will be peace. If the Jews put down their arms there won’t be any Jews left. And I think there’s a basic truth to that.”
This article is worth reading.
Michael J. Totten has a good column up about Kurdistan in Iraq.
There are no insurgents in Kurdistan. Nor are there any kidnappings. A hard internal border between the Kurds’ territory and the Arab-dominated center and south has been in place since the Kurdish uprising at the end of the 1991 Gulf War. Cars on the road heading north are stopped at a series of checkpoints. Questions are asked. ID cards are checked. Vehicles are searched and sometimes taken apart on the side of the road. Smugglers, insurgents, and terrorists who attempt to sneak into Kurdistan by crossing Iraq’s wilderness areas are ambushed by border patrols.
It's worth the read.
August 23, 2006
"Liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker. But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us, at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood."
-- John Adams (A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1765)
Sole responsible power
Rich Lowry has an interesting op-ed up at NRO ascertaining that the U.S. is the only world power willing to take responsibility in global events.
The United States is not just the world’s sole superpower, it is the world’s only responsible power.
Consider the recent action related to a peacekeeping force taking control of southern Lebanon from Hezbollah. France initially agreed with the United States on a United Nations resolution creating an international force that would operate with robust rules of engagement to confront the terrorist guerrilla group. When the Arabs balked, France insisted that the rules of engagement be made considerably vaguer. Since France was going to lead the force, the U.S. deferred to Paris, which has subsequently said that it will contribute only 200 combat engineers to the force because ... the rules on engagement are so vague.
It's worth reading the rest, even if it is a bit pessimistic. But I'm not saying it's wrong . . .
Good news on the financial front
Larry Kudlow is almost waxing poetic about the still-growing, strong, low-tax economy.
Bush inherited the Internet bubble-meltdown from the Clinton years, as well as the corporate scandals. Then came the attacks of 9/11 and the ensuing war. But the Bush recovery also followed suit, the result of slashing high marginal tax rates on investment in mid-2003.
And the recovery continues. Recent strong numbers for retail sales and industrial production suggest a 3.5 percent economic growth rate in the second half of 2006, a far cry from soft-landings, hard-landings, or the recession scenarios that are beginning to proliferate.
And when the president says economic growth has had a positive impact on the budget, he’s right again. Tax receipts are growing around 14 percent for the second straight year, the biggest gain in a quarter of a century. Income-tax collections, bolstered by the success of owner-operated business entrepreneurs and other self-employed, are helping lift these revenues.
And all of this is in spite of record high energy prices, an expensive war, and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Israel vs. Hezbollah from a financial perspective
Jerry Bowyer has an interesting chart and brief analysis commenting on a correlation between the Dow Jones Arabia Titans 50 Index and the Israeli-Hezbollah war. [Emphasis added.]
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that the Israeli stock exchange rallied and fell in step with Israel’s fortunes in the war. But as the above chart shows, the Arab Titans index did the same, rising and falling in step with Israel’s success. Why? Because Israel’s counter-attacks were not the destabilizing factor in the region. Hezbollah’s failed-state warlordism was.
Israel’s attack was part of the solution. That’s because the conflict isn’t between Arab and Jew; it’s between civilization and chaos. The complex web of information that constitutes Saudi bankers, Kuwaiti phone execs, and their shareholders seems to have been voting that civilization is either winning, or that it must win.
Very interesting . . .
August 22, 2006
Every new regulation concerning commerce or revenue; or in any manner affecting the value of the different species of property, presents a new harvest to those who watch the change and can trace its consequences; a harvest reared not by themselves but by the toils and cares of the great body of their fellow citizens. This is a state of things in which it may be said with some truth that laws are made for the few not for the many.
-- James Madison (likely) (Federalist No. 62, 1788)
Silver lining in Israel?
Noah Pollak has an op-ed up at NRO expressing hope that the end of hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel is part of a good plan. He can't really bear the alternative.
To most Israelis, supporters of Israel, and especially to the IDF soldiers I spoke to on the border over the past few days, the cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah that recently went into effect is viewed as a cruel indignity, a dangerous projection of Israeli weakness and equivocation, and a plucking of defeat from the jaws of victory. These were my thoughts as well.
Clueless in the DNC
Now the Democrats have decided to take on Wal-Mart.
“Wal-Mart as an example of the problems that exist in America today is a powerful political issue,” [John Edwards] said in an interview on Wednesday. “I think our party pretty much across the board agrees that people who work hard should be able to support their families. When a company like Wal-Mart fails to meet its corporate responsibility, it make[s] it impossible for that to occur.”
Not exactly proponents of market-driven economics, are they?
August 21, 2006
"Wish not so much to live long as to live well."
-- Benjamin Franklin (Poor Richard's Almanack, June 1746)
Solzhenitsyn on the West
Alexander Solzhenitsyn gave an address at Harvard on 8 June 1978 about why the West was not prevailing over tyranny. Though these words were spoken 28 years ago, they are so very pertinent to the world we find ourselves in today that I just had to share them with you.
This speech really resonates.
I've reprinted it in the extended entry.
(NOTE: I failed to note the blog where I first stumbled upon a reference to this speech, but I'll gladly give credit, if you just let me know.)
A World Split Apart
Commencement Address Delivered At Harvard University June 8, 1978
By Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn
I am sincerely happy to be here with you on the occasion of the 327th commencement of this old and illustrious university. My congratulations and best wishes to all of today's graduates.
Harvard's motto is "VERITAS." Many of you have already found out and others will find out in the course of their lives that truth eludes us as soon as our concentration begins to flag, all the while leaving the illusion that we are continuing to pursue it. This is the source of much discord. Also, truth seldom is sweet; it is almost invariably bitter. A measure of truth is included in my speech today, but I offer it as a friend, not as an adversary.
Three years ago in the United States I said certain things that were rejected and appeared unacceptable. Today, however, many people agree with what I said ...
The split in today's world is perceptible even to a hasty glance. Any of our contemporaries readily identifies two world powers, each of them already capable of destroying each other. However, the understanding of the split too often is limited to this political conception: the illusion according to which danger may be abolished through successful diplomatic negotiations or by achieving a balance of armed forces. The truth is that the split is both more profound and more alienating, that the rifts are more numerous than one can see at first glance. These deep manifold splits bear the danger of equally manifold disaster for all of us, in accordance with the ancient truth that a kingdom - in this case, our Earth - divided against itself cannot stand.
There is the concept of the Third World: thus, we already have three worlds. Undoubtedly, however, the number is even greater; we are just too far away to see. Every ancient and deeply rooted self-contained culture, especially if it is spread over a wide part of the earth's surface, constitutes a self-contained world, full of riddles and surprises to Western thinking. As a minimum, we must include in this China, India, the Muslim world, and Africa, if indeed we accept the approximation of viewing the latter two as uniform.
For one thousand years Russia belonged to such a category, although Western thinking systematically committed the mistake of denying its special character and therefore never understood it, just as today the West does not understand Russia in Communist captivity. And while it may be that in past years Japan has increasingly become, in effect, a Far West, drawing ever closer to Western ways (I am no judge here), Israel, I think, should not be reckoned as part of the West, if only because of the decisive circumstance that its state system is fundamentally linked to its religion.
How short a time ago, relatively, the small world of modern Europe was easily seizing colonies all over the globe, not only without anticipating any real resistance, but usually with contempt for any possible values in the conquered people's approach to life. It all seemed an overwhelming success, with no geographic limits. Western society expanded in a triumph of human independence and power. And all of a sudden the twentieth century brought the clear realization of this society's fragility.
We now see that the conquests proved to be short lived and precarious (and this, in turn, points to defects in the Western view of the world which led to these conquests). Relations with the former colonial world now have switched to the opposite extreme and the Western world often exhibits an excess of obsequiousness, but it is difficult yet to estimate the size of the bill which former colonial countries will present to the West and it is difficult to predict whether the surrender not only of its last colonies, but of everything it owns, will be sufficient for the West to clear this account.
But the persisting blindness of superiority continues to hold the belief that all the vast regions of our planet should develop and mature to the level of contemporary Western systems, the best in theory and the most attractive in practice; that all those other worlds are but temporarily prevented (by wicked leaders or by severe crises or by their own barbarity and incomprehension) from pursuing Western pluralistic democracy and adopting the Western way of life. Countries are judged on the merit of their progress in that direction. But in fact such a conception is a fruit of Western incomprehension of the essence of other worlds, a result of mistakenly measuring them all with a Western yardstick. The real picture of our planet's development bears little resemblance to all this.
The anguish of a divided world gave birth to the theory of convergence between the leading Western countries and the Soviet Union. It is a soothing theory which overlooks the fact that these worlds are not evolving toward each other and that neither one can be transformed into the other without violence. Besides, convergence inevitably means acceptance of the other side's defects, too. and this can hardly suit anyone.
If I were today addressing an audience in my country, in my examination of the overall pattern of the world's rifts I would have concentrated on the calamities of the East. But since my forced exile in the West has now lasted four years and since my audience is a Western one, I think it may be of greater interest to concentrate on certain aspects of the contemporary West, such as I see them.
A Decline In Courage
A decline in courage may be the most striking feature that an outside observer notices in the West today. The Western world has lost its civic courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, in each government, in each political party, and, of course, in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling and intellectual elites, causing an impression of a loss of courage by the entire society. There are many courageous individuals, but they have no determining influence on public life.
Political and intellectual functionaries exhibit this depression, passivity, and perplexity in their actions and in their statements, and even more so in their self-serving rationales as to how realistic, reasonable, and intellectually and even morally justified it is to base state policies on weakness and cowardice. And the decline in courage, at times attaining what could be termed a lack of manhood, is ironically emphasized by occasional outbursts and inflexibility on the part of those same functionaries when dealing with weak governments and with countries that lack support, or with doomed currents which clearly cannot offer resistance. But they get tongue-tied and paralyzed when they deal with powerful governments and threatening forces, with aggressors and international terrorists.
Must one point out that from ancient times a decline in courage has been considered the first symptom of the end?
When the modern Western states were being formed, it was proclaimed as a principle that governments are meant to serve man and that man lives in order to be free and pursue happiness. (See, for example, the American Declaration of Independence.) Now at last during past decades technical and social progress has permitted the realization of such aspirations: the welfare state.
Every citizen has been granted the desired freedom and material goods in such quantity and in such quality as to guarantee in theory the achievement of happiness, in the debased sense of the word which has come into being during those same decades. (In the process, however, one psychological detail has been overlooked: the constant desire to have still more things and a still better life and the struggle to this end imprint many Western faces with worry and even depression, though it is customary to carefully conceal such feelings. This active and tense competition comes to dominate all human thought and does not in the least open a way to free spiritual development.)
The individual's independence from many types of state pressure has been guaranteed; the majority of the people have been granted well-being to an extent their fathers and grandfathers could not even dream about; it has become possible to raise young people according to these ideals, preparing them for and summoning them toward physical bloom, happiness, and leisure, the possession of material goods, money, and leisure, toward an almost unlimited freedom in the choice of pleasures. So who should now renounce all this, why and for the sake of what should one risk one's precious life in defense of the common good and particularly in the nebulous case when the security of one's nation must be defended in an as yet distant land?
Even biology tells us that a high degree of habitual well-being is not advantageous to a living organism. Today, well-being in the life of Western society has begun to take off its pernicious mask.
Western society has chosen for itself the organization best suited to its purposes and one I might call legalistic. The limits of human rights and rightness are determined by a system of laws; such limits are very broad. People in the West have acquired considerable skill in using, interpreting, and manipulating law (though laws tend to be too complicated for an average person to understand without the help of an expert). Every conflict is solved according to the letter of the law and this is considered to be the ultimate solution.
If one is risen from a legal point of view, nothing more is required, nobody may mention that one could still not be right, and urge self-restraint or a renunciation of these rights, call for sacrifice and selfless risk: this would simply sound absurd. Voluntary self-restraint is almost unheard of: everybody strives toward further expansion to the extreme limit of the legal frames. (An oil company is legally blameless when it buys up an invention of a new type of energy in order to prevent its use. A food product manufacturer is legally blameless when he poisons his produce to make it last longer: after all, people are free not to purchase it.)
I have spent all my life under a Communist regime and I will tell you that a society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society based on the letter of the law and never reaching any higher fails to take full advantage of the full range of human possibilities. The letter of the law is too cold and formal to have a beneficial influence on society. Whenever the tissue of life is woven of legalistic relationships, this creates an atmosphere of spiritual mediocrity that paralyzes man's noblest impulses.
And it will be simply impossible to bear up to the trials of this threatening century with nothing but the supports of a legalistic structure.
The Direction Of Freedom
Today's Western society has revealed the inequality between the freedom for good deeds and the freedom for evil deeds. A statesman who wants to achieve something highly constructive for his country has to move cautiously and even timidly; thousands of hasty (and irresponsible) critics cling to him at all times; he is constantly rebuffed by parliament and the press. He has to prove that his every step is well founded and absolutely flawless. Indeed, an outstanding, truly great person who has unusual and unexpected initiatives in mind does not get any chance to assert himself; dozens of traps will be set for him from the beginning. Thus mediocrity triumphs under the guise of democratic restraints.
It is feasible and easy everywhere to undermine administrative power and it has in fact been drastically weakened in all Western countries. The defense of individual rights has reached such extremes as to make society as a whole defenseless against certain individuals. It is time, in the West, to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.
On the other hand, destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society has turned out to have scarce defense against the abyss of human decadence, for example against the misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, such as motion pictures full of pornography, crime, and horror. This is all considered to be part of freedom and to be counterbalanced, in theory, by the young people's right not to look and not to accept. Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil.
And what shall we say about the dark realms of overt criminality? Legal limits (especially in the United States) are broad enough to encourage not only individual freedom but also some misuse of such freedom. The culprit can go unpunished or obtain undeserved leniency - all with the support of thousands of defenders in the society. When a government earnestly undertakes to root out terrorism, public opinion immediately accuses it of violating the terrorist's civil rights. There is quite a number of such cases.
This tilt of freedom toward evil has come about gradually, but it evidently stems from a humanistic and benevolent concept according to which man - the master of the world - does not bear any evil within himself, and all the defects of life are caused by misguided social systems, which must therefore be corrected. Yet strangely enough, though the best social conditions have been achieved in the West, there still remains a great deal of crime; there even is considerably more of it than in the destitute and lawless Soviet society. (There is a multitude of prisoners in our camps who are termed criminals, but most of them never committed any crime; they merely tried to defend themselves against a lawless state by resorting to means outside the legal framework.)
The Direction Of The Press
The press, too, of course, enjoys the widest freedom. (I shall be using the word "press" to include all the media.) But what use does it make of it?
Here again, the overriding concern is not to infringe the letter of the law. There is no true moral responsibility for distortion or disproportion. What sort of responsibility does a journalist or a newspaper have to the readership or to history? If they have misled public opinion by inaccurate information or wrong conclusions, even if they have contributed to mistakes on a state level, do we know of any case of open regret voiced by the same journalist or the same newspaper? No; this would damage sales. A nation may be the worse for such a mistake, but the journalist always gets away with it. It is most likely that he will start writing the exact opposite to his previous statements with renewed aplomb.
Because instant and credible information is required, it becomes necessary to resort to guesswork, rumors, and suppositions to fill in the voids, and none of them will ever be refuted; they settle into the readers' memory. How many hasty, immature, superficial, and misleading judgments are expressed everyday, confusing readers, and then left hanging?
The press can act the role of public opinion or miseducate it. Thus we may see terrorists heroized, or secret matters pertaining to the nation's defense publicly revealed, or we may witness shameless intrusion into the privacy of well-known people according to the slogan "Everyone is entitled to know everything." (But this is a false slogan of a false era; far greater in value is the forfeited right of people not to know, not to have their divine souls stuffed with gossip, nonsense, vain talk. A person who works and leads a meaningful life has no need for this excessive and burdening flow of information.)
Hastiness and superficiality - these are the psychic diseases of the twentieth century and more than anywhere else this is manifested in the press. In-depth analysis of a problem is anathema to the press; it is contrary to its nature. The press merely picks out sensational formulas.
Such as it is, however, the press has become the greatest power within Western countries, exceeding that of the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary. Yet one would like to ask: According to what law has it been elected and to whom is it responsible? In the Communist East, a journalist is frankly appointed as a state official. But who has voted Western journalists into their positions of power, for how long a time, and with what prerogatives?
There is yet another surprise for someone coming from the totalitarian East with its rigorously unified press: One discovers a common trend of preferences within the Western press as a whole (the spirit of the time), generally accepted patterns of judgment, and maybe common corporate interests, the sum effect being not competition but unification. Unrestrained freedom exists for the press, but not for readership, because newspapers mostly transmit in a forceful and emphatic way those opinions which do not too openly contradict their own and that general trend.
A Fashion In Thinking
Without any censorship in the West, fashionable trends of thought and ideas are fastidiously separated from those that are not fashionable, and the latter, without ever being forbidden have little chance of finding their way into periodicals or books or being heard in colleges. Your scholars are free in the legal sense, but they are hemmed in by the idols of the prevailing fad. There is no open violence, as in the East; however, a selection dictated by fashion and the need to accommodate mass standards frequently prevents the most independent-minded persons from contributing to public life and gives rise to dangerous herd instincts that block dangerous herd development.
In America, I have received letters from highly intelligent persons - maybe a teacher in a faraway small college who could do much for the renewal and salvation of his country, but the country cannot hear him because the media will not provide him with a forum. This gives birth to strong mass prejudices, to a blindness which is perilous in our dynamic era. An example is the self-deluding interpretation of the state of affairs in the contemporary world that functions as a sort of petrified armor around people's minds, to such a degree that human voices from seventeen countries of Eastern Europe and Eastern Asia cannot pierce it. It will be broken only by the inexorable crowbar of events.
I have mentioned a few traits of Western life which surprise and shock a new arrival to this world . The purpose and scope of this speech will not allow me to continue such a survey, in particular to look into the impact of these characteristics on important aspects of a nation's life, such as elementary education, advanced education in the humanities, and art.
It is almost universally recognized that the West shows all the world the way to successful economic development, even though in past years it has been sharply offset by chaotic inflation. However, many people living in the West are dissatisfied with their own society. They despise it or accuse it of no longer being up to the level of maturity by mankind. And this causes many to sway toward socialism, which is a false and dangerous current.
I hope that no one present will suspect me of expressing my partial criticism of the Western system in order to suggest socialism as an alternative. No; with the experience of a country where socialism has been realized, I shall not speak for such an alternative. The mathematician Igor Shafarevich, a member of the Soviet Academy of Science, has written a brilliantly argued book entitled Socialism; this is a penetrating historical analysis demonstrating that socialism of any type and shade leads to a total destruction of the human spirit and to a leveling of mankind into death. Shafarevich's book was published in France almost two years ago and so far no one has been found to refute it. It will shortly be published in English in the U.S.
Not A Model
But should I be asked, instead, whether I would propose the West, such as it is today, as a model to my country, I would frankly have to answer negatively. No, I could not recommend your society as an ideal for the transformation of ours. Through deep suffering, people in our own country have now achieved a spiritual development of such intensity that the Western system in its present state of spiritual exhaustion does not look attractive. Even those characteristics of your life which I have just enumerated are extremely saddening.
A fact which cannot be disputed is the weakening of human personality in the West while in the East it has become firmer and stronger. Six decades for our people and three decades for the people of Eastern Europe; during that time we have been through a spiritual training far in advance of Western experience. The complex and deadly crush of life has produced stronger, deeper, and more interesting personalities than those generated by standardized Western well-being. Therefore, if our society were to be transformed into yours, it would mean an improvement in certain aspects, but also a change for the worse on some particularly significant points.
Of course, a society cannot remain in an abyss of lawlessness, as is the case in our country. But it is also demeaning for it to stay on such a soulless and smooth plane of legalism, as is the case in yours. After the suffering of decades of violence and oppression, the human soul longs for things higher, warmer, and purer than those offered by today's mass living habits, introduced as by a calling card by the revolting invasion of commercial advertising, by TV stupor, and by intolerable music.
All this is visible to numerous observers from all the worlds of our planet. The Western way of life is less and less likely to become the leading model.
There are telltale symptoms by which history gives warning to a threatened or perishing society. Such are, for instance, a decline of the arts or a lack of great statesmen. Indeed, sometimes the warnings are quite explicit and concrete. The center of your democracy and of your culture is left without electric power for a few hours only, and all of a sudden crowds of American citizens start looting and creating havoc. The smooth surface film must be very thin, then, the social system quite unstable and unhealthy.
But the fight for our planet, physical and spiritual, a fight of cosmic proportions, is not a vague matter of the future; it has already started. The forces of Evil have begun their decisive offensive. You can feel their pressure, yet your screens and publications are full of prescribed smiles and raised glasses. What is the joy about?
Humanism And Its Consequences
How has this unfavorable relation of forces come about? How did the West decline from its triumphal march to its present debility? Have there been fatal turns and losses of direction in its development? It does not seem so. The West kept advancing steadily in accordance with its proclaimed social intentions, hand in hand with a dazzling progress in technology. And all of a sudden it found itself in its present state of weakness.
This means that the mistake must be at the root, at the very foundation of thought in modern times. I refer to the prevailing Western view of the world in modern times. I refer to the prevailing Western view of the world which was born in the Renaissance and has found political expression since the Age of Enlightenment. It became the basis for political and social doctrine and could be called rationalistic humanism or humanistic autonomy: the pro-claimed and practiced autonomy of man from any higher force above him. It could also be called anthropocentricity, with man seen as the center of all.
The turn introduced by the Renaissance was probably inevitable historically: the Middle Ages had come to a natural end by exhaustion, having become an intolerable despotic repression of man's physical nature in favor of the spiritual one. But then we recoiled from the spirit and embraced all that is material, excessively and incommensurately. The humanistic way of thinking, which had proclaimed itself our guide, did not admit the existence of intrinsic evil in man, nor did it see any task higher than the attainment of happiness on earth. It started modern Western civilization on the dangerous trend of worshiping man and his material needs.
Everything beyond physical well-being and the accumulation of material goods, all other human requirements and characteristics of a subtle and higher nature, were left outside the area of attention of state and social systems, as if human life did not have any higher meaning. Thus gaps were left open for evil, and its drafts blow freely today. Mere freedom per se does not in the least solve all the problems of human life and even adds a number of new ones.
And yet in early democracies, as in American democracy at the time of its birth, all individual human rights were granted on the ground that man is God's creature. That is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility. Such was the heritage of the preceding one thousand years. Two hundred or even fifty years ago, it would have seemed quite impossible, in America, that an individual be granted boundless freedom with no purpose, simply for the satisfaction of his whims.
Subsequently, however, all such limitations were eroded everywhere in the West; a total emancipation occurred from the moral heritage of Christian centuries with their great reserves of mercy and sacrifice. State systems were becoming ever more materialistic. The West has finally achieved the rights of man, and even excess, but man's sense of responsibility to God and society has grown dimmer and dimmer. In the past decades, the legalistic selfishness of the Western approach to the world has reached its peak and the world has found itself in a harsh spiritual crisis and a political impasse. All the celebrated technological achievements of progress, including the conquest of outer space, do not redeem the twentieth century's moral poverty, which no one could have imagined even as late as the nineteenth century.
An Unexpected Kinship
As humanism in its development was becoming more and more materialistic, it also increasingly allowed concepts to be used first by socialism and then by communism, so that Karl Marx was able to say, in 1844, that "communism is naturalized humanism."
This statement has proved to be not entirely unreasonable. One does not see the same stones in the foundations of an eroded humanism and of any type of socialism: boundless materialism; freedom from religion and religious responsibility (which under Communist regimes attains the stage of antireligious dictatorship); concentration on social structures with an allegedly scientific approach. (This last is typical of both the Age of Enlightenment and of Marxism.) It is no accident that all of communism's rhetorical vows revolve around Man (with a capital M) and his earthly happiness. At first glance it seems an ugly parallel: common traits in the thinking and way of life of today's West and today's East? But such is the logic of materialistic development.
The interrelationship is such, moreover, that the current of materialism which is farthest to the left, and is hence the most consistent, always proves to be stronger, more attractive, and victorious. Humanism which has lost its Christian heritage cannot prevail in this competition. Thus during the past centuries and especially in recent decades, as the process became more acute, the alignment of forces was as follows: Liberalism was inevitably pushed aside by radicalism, radicalism had to surrender to socialism, and socialism could not stand up to communism.
The communist regime in the East could endure and grow due to the enthusiastic support from an enormous number of Western intellectuals who (feeling the kinship!) refused to see communism's crimes, and when they no longer could do so, they tried to justify these crimes. The problem persists: In our Eastern countries, communism has suffered a complete ideological defeat; it is zero and less than zero. And yet Western intellectuals still look at it with considerable interest and empathy, and this is precisely what makes it so immensely difficult for the West to withstand the East.
Before The Turn
I am not examining the case of a disaster brought on by a world war and the changes which it would produce in society. But as long as we wake up every morning under a peaceful sun, we must lead an everyday life. Yet there is a disaster which is already very much with us. I am referring to the calamity of an autonomous, irreligious humanistic consciousness.
It has made man the measure of all things on earth - imperfect man, who is never free of pride, self-interest, envy, vanity, and dozens of other defects. We are now paying for the mistakes which were not properly appraised at the beginning of the journey. On the way from the Renaissance to our days we have enriched our experience, but we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility.
We have placed too much hope in politics and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life. It is trampled by the party mob in the East, by the commercial one in the West. This is the essence of the crisis: the split in the world is less terrifying than the similarity of the disease afflicting its main sections.
If, as claimed by humanism, man were born only to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to death, his task on earth evidently must be more spiritual: not a total engrossment in everyday life, not the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then their carefree consumption. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one's life journey may become above all an experience of moral growth: to leave life a better human being than one started it.
It is imperative to reappraise the scale of the usual human values; its present incorrectness is astounding. It is not possible that assessment of the President's performance should be reduced to the question of how much money one makes or to the availability of gasoline. Only by the voluntary nurturing in ourselves of freely accepted and serene self-restraint can mankind rise above the world stream of materialism.
Today it would be retrogressive to hold on to the ossified formulas of the Enlightenment. Such social dogmatism leaves us helpless before the trials of our times.
Even if we are spared destruction by war, life will have to change in order not to perish on its own. We cannot avoid reassessing the fundamental definitions of human life and society. Is it true that man is above everything? Is there no Superior Spirit above him? Is it right that man's life and society's activities should be ruled by material expansion above all? Is it permissible to promote such expansion to the detriment of our integral spiritual life?
If the world has not approached its end, it has reached a major watershed in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will demand from us a spiritual blaze; we shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life, where our physical nature will not be cursed, as in the Middle Ages, but even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon, as in the Modern Era.
The ascension is similar to climbing onto the next anthropological stage. No one on earth has any other way left but - upward.
Reprinted from A World Split Apart by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, (Harper & Row Publishers, New York, 1978).
Arthur Herman, over at the New York Post, draws some very interesting parallels between UN Resolution 1701 and the Munich agreement of October 1938 where Neville Chamberlain reached agreement with Hitler to allow Germany to annex the Sudetenland -- ultimately resulting in the dismantlement of Czechoslovakia. And resulting in encouraging Hitler to even further conquests.
Munich in 1938 boiled down to the free world placating the fascists . . . ultimately leading those freshly emboldened belligerents to invade and conquer their neighbors -- thus beginning the Second World War. A much larger war than they would have had if they had decided to stop, rather than appease, Germany in 1938.
In that sense, the cease-fire may be even more momentous than Munich, and a greater blunder. In 1938 Chamberlain and other appeasers had the excuse that they were trying to prevent an armed conflict no one wanted. Today, of course, that conflict is already here. Historians will conclude that by supporting U.N. Resolution 1701 and getting Israel to agree, the Bush administration has in effect declared that its global war on terror is over. We have reverted to the pre-9/11 box of tools, if not necessarily the pre-9/11 mindset. From now on, the worst Iran, Syria, and North Korea will have to worry about are serial resolutions in the United Nations. Terrorists will be busy dodging Justice Department subpoenas, not Tomahawk missiles.
We should learn from history, not just ignore it. Recommended.
Dearth of hurricanes
Dr. Roy Spencer, principal research scientist for the University of Alabama in Huntsville, has a good column up at TCS Daily about the unexpectedly "near-normal" hurricane season that we are experiencing this year. Here's how he starts:
What a difference one year makes. With the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's landfall (August 29, 2005) rapidly approaching, who would have predicted that we would now be in the middle of a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season? Weren't the global warming pundits' predictions for this hurricane season that it would be just as bad -- maybe even worse! -- than last year?
Yet, now at mid-August, we have had only three named tropical storms, compared to nine by this date last year. Normally, we would have had one hurricane by now, and we have not had any so far, so by that measure we are actually below normal.
Dr. Spencer actually uses measured data to make observations about the climate -- as opposed to climate models.
You should read the rest.
August 20, 2006
"I am not influenced by the expectation of promotion or pecuniary reward. I wish to be useful, and every kind of service necessary for the public good, become honorable by being necessary."
-- Nathan Hale (remark to Captain William Hull, who had attempted to dissuade him from volunteering for a spy mission for General Washington, September 1776)
Press briefing in Iraq
On 16 August, Major General William B. Caldwell IV presented a briefing on current security operations in Iraq.
As you all know, we are systematically dismantling the al-Qaida network. Methodical operations have continued in a very deliberate and conscious fashion as we disrupt and disorganize that network. Recent detainees have given us the unique insight into the plans and operations of al-Qaida in Iraq and what they are doing to achieve their goals here. In discussing these efforts, detainees have provided invaluable insight into Iraq's means to its end and have also identified multiple vulnerabilities and exploitable weaknesses that the al-Qaida in Iraq leaders perceive within and from without their organization.
But to put this in context, we probably need to first remember what is the current security situation here. The core conflict in Iraq has transitioned to a struggle mostly between Sunni and Shi'a extremists seeking to control key areas of Baghdad, create or protect sectarian enclaves, divert economic resources and impose their political and religious agendas.
It's a good in-depth look at what's going on in Iraq from someone who is there. You should read the whole thing.
Lieberman may be on to something
Robert Cox of The Examiner> says that Joe Lieberman may have the right idea about how to do politics in this country.
In his Tuesday night speech, Lieberman, both conceding defeat and launching a new campaign for the U.S. Senate, decried the “old politics of partisan polarization” and said, “I went into public service to find solutions, not to point fingers. To unite, not to divide.”
Lieberman went on to describe a political environment within his own party in that “Every disagreement is considered disloyal. And every opponent it is not just an opponent but is seen as evil.” He vowed to continue fighting for stronger national security and work with Democrats and Republicans to “build a better life for the people of Connecticut ... regardless of what the political consequences may be.” In staring into the abyss of an election loss, Lieberman may be on to something.
It's worth the read.
August 19, 2006
Happy Birthday, Beautiful!
Today is my lovely wife's birthday. She seems to have one every year -- and every year she is more gracious, more wise, more radiant, more confident than the one before. And so much more!
I am not good at expressing my feelings in this manner, but I'd like to take a shot at describing this wonderful woman from my perpective.
We met in the spring of 1975. I was a senior in high school and she was a sophomore. She was different from any other girl I had ever been attracted to, but she drew me like a moth to a flame. I was attracted on many different levels: physically, of course, but intellectually and spiritually, as well. And I couldn't stay away from her. She had me wrapped around her little finger right from the start -- and though she was well aware of that fact, she never, ever took advantage of it. And we became the best of friends early on in our relationship.
Our courtship was a long one by some standards -- we dated three and a half years before we married. And it was wonderful to finally be living with my best friend.
We actually got a lot accomplished in the twelve years BC (Before Children). We achieved academic and professional goals that I never thought possible. (She brings the best out in me, and I am so very grateful for that.) Just as importantly though, our love, and our friendship, grew deeper during those years.
When our first daughter was born, our lives changed drastically (as any parents reading this know). This happened at the beginning of a period of several years where I was travelling extensively on business. Frankly, all of the travel damaged our relationship -- our friendship was not as intimate and open as it had been. And neither one of us liked that fact, but we soldiered on.
Then, seven years and a few months after our firstborn joined the family, our seond daughter was born. (The delay had a lot to do with me getting over the shock of our first girl -- twelve years of wedded bliss as a footloose and fancy free couple, then suddenly baby makes three.) And about the time our second daughter turned three, my lady love and I rediscovered each other. We became closer best friends. Our relationship deepened . . . and I found myself falling more deeply in love with her. I will do anything for her. And she knows it. And she has never, ever taken advantage of that fact.
Another year has gone by, my love, yet you are still the woman of my dreams. You are a wonderful mother, wife, teacher, and friend. I love your laughter, your intellect, and your loyalty. I love your spirituality. You are kind and loving, practical and whimsical, tolerant of my silliness, and more alluring to me now than you have ever been before.
I simply adore you.
As do our two girls.
I hope to celebrate many, many more birthdays with you as we travel through life together -- as wife and husband, and as best friends . . .
Happy Birthday, Honey.
August 18, 2006
"A people...who are possessed of the spirit of commerce, who see and who will pursue their advantages may achieve almost anything."
-- George Washington (letter to Benjamin Harrison, 10 October 1784)
Hollywood for freedom
Would you look at this!
I suppose it's pretty darn cold down in Hell right now . . .
But seriously, good for them! I appreciate the gesture.
Leading the struggle
Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter and policy advisor to President Bush, shows us the same picture that Bush sees in the Middle East. And it's a scary one. But one that I believe to be accurate.
The war in Iraq, without doubt, complicates our approach to Iran. It has stretched the Army and lowered our reservoir of credibility on WMD intelligence. But Iran's destabilizing nuclear ambitions are not a guarded secret; they are an announced strategy. If the lesson drawn from Iraq is that the world is too unknowable and complicated for America to act in its interests, we will pay a terrible price down the road.
As these events unfold, our country will need a better way of doing business, a new compact between citizens and their government. Americans have every right to expect competence and honesty about risks and mistakes and failures. Yet Americans, in turn, must understand that in a war where deception is the weapon and goal of the enemy, every mistake is not a lie; every failure is not a conspiracy. And the worst failure would be a timid foreign policy that allows terrible threats to emerge.
He has much more to say in the article. Please read the whole thing. I highly recommend it.
[Hat tip to Jack Kelly at Irish Pennants.]
Jeff Jacoby discusses Mike Wallace's fawning interview of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And he's taking no prisoners. Here's how he starts:
NEVILLE CHAMBERLAIN flew to Munich to see Adolf Hitler, Walter Winchell observed in 1938, ``because you can't lick a man's boots over the phone." Why did Mike Wallace fly to Tehran?
Go read the rest.
On the home front
Benjamin Balint has written a rueful missive about every Israeli citizen's destiny in life.
The Israeli press has lately been using numbers to conjure both today’s enemies and yesterday’s ghosts, sometimes to numbing effect. One television channel lists past attacks perpetrated by Iranian-backed Shiite Hezbollah terrorists: attacks on the American embassy in Beirut, April 1983, 63 dead; on the Marine barracks, October 1983, 241 dead; on the American embassy, September 1984, 20 dead; on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, March 1992, 22 dead; on that city’s Jewish community center, July 1994, 80 dead.
But there is always hope. And he writes about that, too.
August 17, 2006
"[H]is was the singular destiny and merit, of leading the armies of his country successfully through an arduous war, for the establishment of its independence; of conducting its councils through the birth of a government, new in its forms and principles, until it had settled down into a quite and orderly train; and of scrupulously obeying the laws through the whole of his career, civil and military, of which the history of the world furnishes no other example."
-- Thomas Jefferson (on George Washington in a letter to Dr. Walter Jones, 2 January 1814)
Construction in Iraq
The Washington Post published an article about the construction efforts going on in Iraq. Major General William McCoy, Commanding General of the Corps of Engineers in Iraq, disagreed with much of that article and wrote this letter to correct the record. For some reason, the Post chose not to publish the letter.
Politics Central has an audio interview of MG McCoy and other links that are pertinent to this story.
A significant quote from his letter:
The reporter didn’t tell you about the hundreds of dedicated military and civilian professionals he saw over here working to make Iraq better, or the Iraqis who come to work every day at their own peril because they believe in what we, and they, are accomplishing together.
He failed to tell you about Aseel or Salah who worked for the Corps of Engineers since we arrived in 2003, because they wanted to make their country like ours, but who were recently brutally murdered in the streets because they worked for the Americans.
He never wrote about the Water Treatment Plant he visited that will provide fresh potable water to over half a million people in southern Iraq in just two more months, or the one in northern Iraq that is providing water for the 330,000 citizens of Irbil.
He never told folks back home about the thousands of children that are now in 800 new or rebuilt schools, or about oil production now being back to pre-war levels and getting better everyday, or raw sewage being taken out of the streets and put back in the pipes where it belongs, or about the thousands of miles of new roads, or post offices, police stations or courthouses or… well, he just left a great deal out now, didn’t he?
Perhaps it’s because some in the press don’t want the American people to know the truth and prefer instead to only report the negative aspects of the news because “it sells papers.”
We deserve better from those who claim the protection of the Constitution we are fighting to support and defend.
America, don’t give up. You are doing much better over here than all too many of your press will tell you. If you are tired of fighting for freedom and democracy for those who so strongly long for the country we have, then think of the alternatives for a moment. Iraq will be better for our efforts and so will the world. And you are making it happen. Be proud and keep supporting this vital effort. It is the most important thing America can do.
I strongly encourage you to read the complete letter, then follow the second link above to listen to the interview and check out the other references.
Once again, the United Nations, under Kofi Annan, is proving to be a facilitator for terrorism.
Annan angered Israeli officials when he told Channel 2 on Tuesday that "dismantling Hizbullah is not the direct mandate of the UN," which could only help Lebanon disarm the organization. Annan upset officials further when he said that deploying international forces in Lebanon would take "weeks or months," and not days as expected.
How unprofessional. And unreliable. And dangerous to peace.
Annan has proved he is not up to the challenge. The man should be replaced.
Thomas Sowell gives the reader a brief history of the Middle East to provide the proper context for his comments about the most recent cease-fire between the nation of Israel and those who would destroy it.
Most people are as uninformed about the history of the Middle East as they are about its geography. Supposedly Jews took over the Palestinians' homeland in order to create the state of Israel.
But there was no Palestinian homeland. That whole region belonged to the Ottoman Empire until the Ottoman Empire was dismembered after its defeat in the First World War.
Christians, Jews, and Muslims had all lived in Palestine for centuries. In the course of carving up the Ottoman Empire to create new nations, the British set aside a small part of it for Jews -- and after violent objections from the Arabs, stalled for years on letting this bit of land become an independent nation.
Jews lived in Palestine long before there was a state of Israel and even before there was an Ottoman Empire. In 1939, Winston Churchill commented that Jews in Palestine "made the desert bloom." The resulting prosperity of the area attracted both more Jews and more Arabs, including some Arabs whose descendants would later claim that Jews took over their country.
After World War II and the Holocaust, Jews seeking refuge turned to their promised home in the Middle East and battled the British to seize control and proclaim the independence of Israel.
In the face of polarizing hostility and violence in surrounding Arab countries, Jews fled these countries and many were absorbed into Israel. Meanwhile, Arab countries urged Arabs living in Israel to leave before these countries' planned attacks with the aim of destroying the new state.
It was the Arabs, rather than the Israelis, who created a massive Palestinian refugee problem.
August 16, 2006
"When we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary."
-- Thomas Paine (Common Sense, 1776)
I discovered a website set up by D.Challener Roe to organize a tribute to those 2996 people who died on 09/11/2001. If you have a blog or a website, I urge you to visit there and sign up to help out.
'Islamic fascism' is an accurate term
Janet Daly has a pertinent article up at The Telegraph wherein she maintains that 'fascistic' is the right word for Islamic fundamentalism.
George W. Bush was pilloried for referring to "Islamic fascists" by, among others, the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu. Using that kind of language "on the ranch in Texas" did not help, he said, to make society "a good, neighbourly place".
I don't know what the ranch in Texas has to do with anything, but Dr Sentamu seems not to understand the difference between describing Islamic fundamentalists as fascistic, and saying that all Muslims are fascists.
She goes a lot further, though, in discussing the danger in appeasement to terrorism by the print and broadcast media, politicians, and nations. And she points out that we need to take this threat very seriously.
This is a critical moment. What we must call the "free world" will either decide that it must unite unequivocally against a force so dark that it is almost incomprehensible to democratic peoples, or else succumb to a daydream of denial that is nothing more than appeasement.
I cannot help but agree.
Michael Barone has a provocative editorial up at Townhall where he spends some time showing the reader how the political Left in this country is missing the boat about the terrorist threat we face.
What we are looking at here is cognitive dissonance. The mindset of the Left blogosphere is that there's no real terrorist threat out there. We wouldn't have any serious problem if we'd just do something different -- raise the minimum wage or reduce the number without health insurance (the first issue Lamont mentioned on election night), withdraw from Iraq or (as some Left bloggers suggest) sell out Israel.
As for Lamont, on victory night he mentioned his policy to handle the nuclear threat posed by Iran: We should "bring in allies" and "use carrots as well as sticks." He evidently failed to notice that we deputized Britain, France and Germany to negotiate with Iran for three years and that Iran has been offered plenty of carrots and has not been threatened with many sticks. Once again, a disconnect with reality.
At the risk of sounding paranoid, I am afraid that many more Americans than those whom Mr. Barone described are equally clueless about it.
And that is a problem.
Americans and liberty
Andrew Gimson, writing for the UK publication, The Telegraph, writes an interesting essay about the intensity of Americans' belief in liberty.
We are inclined, in our snobbish way, to dismiss the Americans as a new and vulgar people, whose civilisation has hardly risen above the level of cowboys and Indians. Yet the United States of America is actually the oldest republic in the world, with a constitution that is one of the noblest works of man. When one strips away the distracting symbols of modernity - motor cars, skyscrapers, space rockets, microchips, junk food - one finds an essentially 18th-century country. While Europe has engaged in the headlong and frankly rather immature pursuit of novelty - how many constitutions have the nations of Europe been through in this time? - the Americans have held to the ideals enunciated more than 200 years ago by their founding fathers.
August 15, 2006
"If we move in mass, be it ever so circuitously, we shall attain our object; but if we break into squads, everyone pursuing the path he thinks most direct, we become an easy conquest to those who can now barely hold us in check."
-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to William Duane, 1811)
As a reporter who worked for Reuters for three years, Phillip Klein discusses bias and errors in this global news agency.
Though I don't have specific knowledge of what went on at the photo desk when Reuters ran the altered images, my three plus years of experience at the wire service leads me to believe the following: there is an institutional bias against Israel at Reuters, but the photo desk did not knowingly run doctored images.
Go read the whole thing.
First-hand reporting -- Israel
Michael Totten is in Israel and is reporting from inside Hezbollah's Free Fire Zone. While he was talking to a couple of IDF spokesmen, one mentioned this little-known fact about the beginning of the conflict:
“Hardly any journalists have mentioned this,” Dan said. “But at the very beginning of this thing, when Hezbollah captured our soldiers, they also tried to invade, conquer, and hold the town of Metulla along with two other towns. And they were repulsed.”
Clearly an act of war. No ambiguity in that, is there?
There are several photos included in the report. Go read the whole thing.
We have to continue the offensive
Saul Singer has an excellent analysis of the current state of our war against terrorists, and what we need to do to win it.
The thwarted plot to blow up multiple airliners with liquid explosives, and the subsequent British ban on all carry-on luggage except for wallets and passports carried in clear plastic bags, shows that this war cannot be won on defensive terms.
Perhaps it is possible to hermetically seal an aircraft cabin from bombers willing to die with their victims; it is not possible to seal off entire democratic countries, bursting with unguarded targets. The only way to win is to suck the air out of jihad by driving the regimes that support it out of power or out of the terror business.
Isolated jihadis can kill but they have no hope of winning. The whole point of jihad is to gain power, so the jihad will lose steam if the states that back it lose power. The US, UK, France and Germany, perhaps individually and certainly collectively, have the power to force the key rogue regime - Iran - to end its race for the bomb and support for international aggression.
He shows the cyclical nature of global politics through a brief examination of our last 180 years of history, or so. Then he shows that we have lost our way in this current war.
Now we are in World War IV, as Norman Podhoretz has pointed out, between what Tony Blair aptly calls Reactionary Islam and the rest of us. The first striking thing about this war is that we've managed to fall asleep at a relatively late stage of it.
[Via Betsy Newmark.]
August 14, 2006
"[T]here exists in the economy and course of nature, an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness; between duty and advantage; between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy, and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity."
-- George Washington (First Inaugural Address, 30 April 1789)
Warning about Iraq
Michael Yon warns us of the threat of civil war in Iraq.
Despite incredible progress in Iraq, we are now in great peril of losing the war entirely. At the current rate, we will witness genocide as a nation rips itself apart along sectarian seams.
This is alarming news. We need more voices like his to be heard by folks in the Dept. of Defense.
Betsy Newmark provides a good compilation of links concerning the staging of photographs and video in Lebanon. It's pretty damning stuff.
August 13, 2006
"Jealousy, and local policy mix too much in all our public councils for the good government of the Union. In a words, the confederation appears to me to be little more than a shadow without the substance...."
-- George Washington (letter to James Warren, 7 October 1785)
Why we spy
OpinionJournal has a extremely pertinent op-ed up about why it is vital that America continues to use surveillance of all kinds to protect its citizens.
. . . The plot was foiled because a large number of people were under surveillance concerning their spending, travel and communications. Which leads us to wonder if Scotland Yard would have succeeded if the ACLU or the New York Times had first learned the details of such surveillance programs.
A good thing to wonder. I've reprinted the article in its entirety in the extended entry.
'Mass Murder' Foiled
A terror plot is exposed by the policies many American liberals oppose.
Friday, August 11, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT
Americans went to work yesterday to news of another astonishing terror plot against U.S. airlines, only this time the response was grateful relief. British authorities had busted the "very sophisticated" plan "to commit mass murder" and arrested 20-plus British-Pakistani suspects. As we approach the fifth anniversary of 9/11 without another major attack on U.S. soil, now is the right moment to consider the policies that have protected us--and those in public life who have fought those policies nearly every step of the way.
It's not as if the "Islamic fascists"--to borrow President Bush's description yesterday--haven't been trying to hit us. They took more than 50 lives last year in London with the "7/7" subway bombings. There was the catastrophic attack in Madrid the year before that left nearly 200 dead. But there have also been successes. Some have been publicized, such as a foiled plot to poison Britain's food supply with ricin. But undoubtedly many have not, because authorities don't want to compromise sources and methods, or because the would-be terrorists have been captured or killed before they could carry out their plans.
In this case the diabolical scheme was to smuggle innocent-looking liquid explosive components and detonators onto planes. They could then be assembled onboard and exploded, perhaps over cities for maximum horror. Multiply the passenger load of a 747 by, say, 10 airliners, and this attack could have killed more people than 9/11. We don't yet know how the plot was foiled, but surely part of the explanation was crack surveillance work by British authorities.
"This wasn't supposed to happen today," a U.S. official told the Washington Post of the arrests and terror alert. "It was supposed to happen several days from now. We hear the British lost track of one or two guys. They had to move." Meanwhile, British antiterrorism chief Peter Clarke said at a news conference that the plot was foiled because "a large number of people" had been under surveillance, with police monitoring "spending, travel and communications."
Let's emphasize that again: The plot was foiled because a large number of people were under surveillance concerning their spending, travel and communications. Which leads us to wonder if Scotland Yard would have succeeded if the ACLU or the New York Times had first learned the details of such surveillance programs.
And almost on political cue yesterday, Members of the Congressional Democratic leadership were using the occasion to suggest that the U.S. is actually more vulnerable today despite this antiterror success. Harry Reid, who's bidding to run the Senate as Majority Leader, saw it as one more opportunity to insist that "the Iraq war has diverted our focus and more than $300 billion in resources from the war on terrorism and has created a rallying cry for international terrorists."
Ted Kennedy chimed in that "it is clear that our misguided policies are making America more hated in the world and making the war on terrorism harder to win." Mr. Kennedy somehow overlooked that the foiled plan was nearly identical to the "Bojinka" plot led by Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to blow up airliners over the Pacific Ocean in 1995. Did the Clinton Administration's "misguided policies" invite that plot? And if the Iraq war is a diversion and provocation, just what policies would Senators Reid and Kennedy have us "focus" on?
Surveillance? Hmmm. Democrats and their media allies screamed bloody murder last year when it was leaked that the government was monitoring some communications outside the context of a law known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. FISA wasn't designed for, nor does it forbid, the timely exploitation of what are often anonymous phone numbers, and the calls monitored had at least one overseas connection. But Mr. Reid labeled such surveillance "illegal" and an "NSA domestic spying program." Other Democrats are still saying they will censure, or even impeach, Mr. Bush over the FISA program if they win control of Congress.
This year the attempt to paint Bush Administration policies as a clear and present danger to civil liberties continued when USA Today hyped a story on how some U.S. phone companies were keeping call logs. The obvious reason for such logs is that the government might need them to trace the communications of a captured terror suspect. And then there was the recent brouhaha when the New York Times decided news of a secret, successful and entirely legal program to monitor bank transfers between bad guys was somehow in the "public interest" to expose.
For that matter, we don't recall most advocates of a narrowly "focused" war on terror having many kind words for the Patriot Act, which broke down what in the 1990s was a crippling "wall" of separation between our own intelligence and law-enforcement agencies. Senator Reid was "focused" enough on this issue to brag, prematurely as it turned out, that he had "killed" its reauthorization.
And what about interrogating terror suspects when we capture them? It is elite conventional wisdom these days that techniques no worse than psychological pressure and stress positions constitute "torture." There is also continued angst about the detention of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, even as Senators and self-styled civil libertarians fight Bush Administration attempts to process them through military tribunals that won't compromise sources and methods.
In short, Democrats who claim to want "focus" on the war on terror have wanted it fought without the intelligence, interrogation and detention tools necessary to win it. And if they cite "cooperation" with our allies as some kind of magical answer, they should be reminded that the British and other European legal systems generally permit far more intrusive surveillance and detention policies than the Bush Administration has ever contemplated. Does anyone think that when the British interrogate those 20 or so suspects this week that they will recoil at harsh or stressful questioning?
Another issue that should be front and center again is ethnic profiling. We'd be shocked if such profiling wasn't a factor in the selection of surveillance targets that resulted in yesterday's arrests. Here in the U.S., the arrests should be a reminder of the dangers posed by a politically correct system of searching 80-year-old airplane passengers with the same vigor as screeners search young men of Muslim origin. There is no civil right to board an airplane without extra hassle, any more than drivers in high-risk demographics have a right to the same insurance rates as a soccer mom.
The real lesson of yesterday's antiterror success in Britain is that the threat remains potent, and that the U.S. government needs to be using every legal tool to defeat it. At home, that includes intelligence and surveillance and data-mining, and abroad it means all of those as well as an aggressive military plan to disrupt and kill terrorists where they live so they are constantly on defense rather than plotting to blow up U.S.-bound airliners.
As the time since 9/11 has passed, many of America's elites have begun to portray U.S. government policies as a greater threat than the terrorists themselves. George Soros and others have said this explicitly, and their political allies in Congress and the media have staged a relentless campaign against the very practices that saved innocent lives this week. We doubt that many Americans who will soon board an airplane agree.
[Used with permission from OpinionJournal.com, a web site from Dow Jones & Company, Inc.]
August 12, 2006
"The hour is fast approaching, on which the Honor and Success of this army, and the safety of our bleeding Country depend. Remember officers and Soldiers, that you are Freemen, fighting for the blessings of Liberty - that slavery will be your portion, and that of your posterity, if you do not acquit yourselves like men."
-- George Washington (General Orders, 23 August 1776)
He probably already knows this. But.I.did.not.
Until now . . .
Once again, Peggy Noonan seems to touch the heart of the matter concerning Senator Joe Lieberman.
I personally am disappointed that the Democrats abandoned him like they did. Joe Lieberman is not a politician. He is a statesman -- and there are precious few of those around these days. I wish him luck as an independent candidate. This country still needs him.
I've reprinted the entire article in the extended entry.
Joe Lieberman's shrewd decision to run against Washington.
Thursday, August 10, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT
Matt Lauer: Let me go back to that line in your speech last night. I'll paraphrase it if you don't mind. You said, for the sake of your state, your country and my party, you will not let these results stand. It's a nice line in the speech, but the fact of the matter is there are a lot of Democrats who think that now going forward you are putting your own personal ambitions above the good of the party. How do you respond to that?
Joe Lieberman: Well, I think it's time for somebody to break through the dominance of both parties by the margins of the parties, which happens in primaries. I think it's time for somebody to break through and say, Hey, let's cut out the partisan nonsense. Yes, I'm a proud Democrat, but I'm more devoted to my state and my country than I am to my party. And the parties today are getting in the way of our government doing for our people what they need their government to do.
This is a potentially powerful route for Mr. Lieberman to take--a break from both major parties, a declaration of personal independence, a canny attempt to take advantage of the growing intraparty frustrations that are rising in both parties, and an attempt to get out from under what is Mr. Lieberman's biggest problem, his insiderism, the sense that he helped create the reality that has today's voters feeling pessimistic and frustrated.
I don't think the election was all about the war, though the war was a big issue and will continue as one. I don't think it was all about his being "too close with Bush," though that mattered too. Mr. Lieberman was a longtime member of the American governing establishment. Ned Lamont will try to paint him as the poster boy for everything that no one likes about those who govern America.
In the middle there is growing unease with the paths we're on. On the left there is a rising spirit of "Down, tear it down."
If I were Mr. Lamont's campaign chairman I'd be thinking like this: Hit hard on the war and insiderism, and hit harder on Joe as a creature of the establishment. Hit him with everything. The media establishment loves him? Proof that he's part of the problem. Who was our senator when a cabal of globalists removed America's furniture in the middle of the night? The shoe factories gone, the making of things over, America's steel mills a memory, real jobs for real men--change that to real "people"--removed so we can all sit in plastic cubicles and BlackBerry with Bombay? Paint Mr. Lieberman as a globalist-establishment-sophisticate more at home in Davos than Danbury.
People who watch politics tend to think charges like this are dead as Tom Joad. They think such populism has been washed away by prosperity and subsumed by high employment. I don't think so. I think this issue hasn't even arrived yet.
If I were Mr. Lieberman's campaign manager I'd take heart from Mr. Lamont's victory speech on Tuesday night. At one point he seemed to catch himself, stop himself from going down one rhetorical route and go down another. But he didn't do it like a pro. He did it like someone who all of a sudden remembered some political advice someone whispered in his ear. He was talking about what seemed to be a voter he'd met on the trail, and you could tell he was going to paint her frustration and despair. Then he remembered he was supposed to come across not as aggrieved but as triumphant and hopeful, so he pulled himself off the anecdote and wandered down some safer route of banality.
He was standing there with confetti glittering distractedly on his hair, and on the shoulders of his dark suit--he and his people are new enough in politics that there's no one around him yet to brush the confetti off and say, "It looks like dandruff." He looked as shocked as anyone that he was the Democratic nominee for senator from Connecticut. He looked like what Dick Morris, who said he'd once had Mr. Lamont as a client, said of him in his column the next day: a "rich, light-weight dilettante" who inherited the fortune of J.P. Morgan's partner. Mr. Lamont does have the soft, startled look of the inheritor of huge wealth. And we'll certainly be hearing more about that.
How does Lieberman fend off attacks of insiderism, go-alongism, Establishment Boy?
Bolt. Not to the left and not to the right but to the outside. Which is what he's doing. He's going to distance himself from his own success and point an accusing finger at the two parties that control Washington. Tone will be important here. He has to critique as if from a distance, but without bitterness, with a balance of good nature and conviction. And he'll have his surrogates go at Mr. Lamont personally: How nice to be a rich nincompoop who has finally found his existential reason for being in entering politics. But what does he have to offer but a grab bag of resentments?
If Mr. Lieberman can persuasively position himself as an outsider--as a famous independent, aligned with neither of the reigning roving gangs--he could win.
There's another thing he has going for him, and it's the flip side of insiderism. He's a grownup. He's not an angry kid. When America gets in trouble, and everyone thinks more trouble is coming, you want grownups around. In this, Mr. Lieberman is in sharp relief to Mr. Lamont's supporters.
Everyone in public life gets tagged. But this is one of the first times in a long time that somebody's base got tagged. The Kos crowd is viewed by most people outside that crowd as hate-fueled, bitter and stupid--the devil's flying monkeys making their "Eeek! Eeek!" sounds. As a political phenomenon such people do not . . . inspire. They're not like the young lefties of old trying to be "Clean for Gene."
They seem like people who do not--cannot--create and cohere. They seem driven by a spirit of destruction. This will take you only so far. It didn't help when Kos himself, Markos Moulitsas, got all Robespierre the other day and instructed Harry Reid to strip Mr. Lieberman of all his committee assignments.
The Republican candidate is going nowhere, so it's a Lieberman-Lamont race. Former state representative Alan Schlesinger is immersed in a personal scandal, having been accused of being a high-rolling gambler who plays under an assumed name. The Hartford Courant quoted Republican state chairman George Gallo in July as saying, when the story broke, "Our mistake is that we only vetted candidates using their real names." It seemed less than full-throated support.
So it's Lieberman versus Lamont unless Mr. Schlesinger drops out, in which case a Republican with his own money could conceivably come forward and shake things up. A new candidate like that would take votes from Mr. Lieberman.
I wonder how national Republicans will play this? Would the White House allow a conservative to come forward? Personal ties and gratitude aside, a newly elected Joe Lieberman, free of the constraints of the Democratic Party, might be a much more reliable supporter than an independent Republican moneybags with a lot to prove.
Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father," (Penguin, 2005), which you can order from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Thursdays.
[Used with permission from OpinionJournal.com, a web site from Dow Jones & Company, Inc.]
August 11, 2006
"If we resort for a criterion to the different principles on which different forms of government are established, we may define a republic to be, or at least may bestow that name on, a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure for a limited period, or during good behavior."
-- James Madison (Federalist No. 39)
The bottom line
In all of the discussion/analysis/finger-pointing concerning the foiled terrorist plot yesterday, and since, Ed Morrissey puts it into proper perspective.
Do you want to know what the big story of the day really was? We beat the terrorists -- again -- and saved lives. Perhaps we could have spent the day reflecting on that and the need for continuing vigilance. The politics could have, and should have, waited for another day.
Thanks for bringing it back into focus, Cap'n.
Iranian military link
Reuters reports that Iranian soldiers are fighting for Hezbollah.
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard have been found among Hizbollah guerrillas slain by Israeli forces in southern Lebanon, Israel's Channel 10 television reported on Wednesday citing diplomatic sources.
It said the Iranians were identified by documents found on their bodies, but gave no further details on how many were discovered or when. Neither the Israeli military nor Hizbollah representatives in Beirut had immediate comment on the report.
Somehow, I'm not the least bit surprised.
Modesty becomes her
Clinical psychologist Patricia Dalton has a well thought out essay about preserving our daughters' modesty. And there are compelling reasons to do that.
Without that leadership, kids have trouble recognizing lines of propriety. Boys don't know where the line is and where to stop; and girls -- or gurrrrrrrrls, as the new terminology puts it -- who have become accustomed to their deliberately outr[e] styles of dress, are displaying increasingly aggressive sexual behavior.
As the father of two daughters (one a teenager), I can definitely relate to what is described in this column. My Lady and I are considered very strict parents by many of our contemporaries. After reading this, I don't feel very bad about that. We just pray every single day for direction in raising our precious girls.
Go read the whole thing. It is well worth your time.
Good news from the Middle East
Iraq veteran and University of Texas professor Austin Bay has an op-ed up at Real Clear Politics detailing his thoughts on why July was a good month for freedom. Here's how he starts:
July 2006 may prove to be a signal, era-shaping month in 21st-century history.
Sensationalists, fear mongers, defeatists and terrorists prefer predictions of catastrophe and disaster. On the surface, last month looks like a violent disaster, an August 1914, with this July's missiles, rockets and improvised explosive devices replacing the guns of that terrible August.
August 1914 began World War I. World War I seeded World War II, which lingered as the Cold War.
However, instead of starting a global conflagration, July 2006 exposed or made explicit key elements of and trends in an ongoing war with global, regional and very local dimensions.
Go read the rest. He makes some good points.
CNN's Anderson Cooper, a veteran war journalist with extensive experience in the Middle East, has some interesting observations about how Hezbollah is staging things for the press. He draws from his recent firsthand experience in Lebanon.
Please check out the video at the link -- especially the last 30 seconds where Cooper is discussing Hezbollah's deceptive PR efforts.
August 10, 2006
"[W]e ought to deprecate the hazard attending ardent and susceptible minds, from being too strongly, and too early prepossessed in favor of other political systems, before they are capable of appreciating their own."
-- George Washington (letter to the Commissioners of the District of Columbia, 28 January 1795)
Allahpundit at Hot Air has put together a good compilation of news and information regarding the terror plot to blow up airplanes flying between the UK and the US. He is updating this post continuously, so it is current info.
Thomas Sowell points out that increasing the minimum wage will reduce the number of jobs available to unskilled workers. Classic cause and effect.
A survey has shown that 85 percent of the economists in Canada and 90 percent of the economists in the United States say that minimum wage laws reduce employment. But you don't need a Ph.D. in economics to know that jacking up prices leads fewer people to buy. Those people include employers, who hire less labor when labor is made artificially more expensive.
It happens in France, it happens in South Africa, it happens in New Zealand. How surprised should we be when it happens in Chicago?
[. . .]
There is no free lunch. Higher labor costs mean fewer jobs.
International law professor Orde F. Kittrie makes some pertinent points about who is violating international law in the current conflict in Lebanon.
I've reprinted it in the extended entry.
A War Crime at Qana?
Hezbollah, Iran and Syria--not Israel--are flouting international law.
BY ORDE F. KITTRIE
Sunday, August 6, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT
The Qana tragedy has intensified accusations that Israel's actions in Lebanon violate international law. Every death of an innocent person is extremely regrettable; but there is no evidence Israel has committed any war crimes. In contrast, Hezbollah, Iran and Syria have clearly violated international law in this conflict. Moreover, Israel's conduct compares favorably to how its most powerful accusers have behaved when their own interests have been threatened.
International law has three major prohibitions relevant to the Qana incident. One forbids deliberate attacks on civilians. Another prohibits hiding forces in civilian areas, thereby turning civilians into "human shields." A third prohibition, the proportionality restriction that Israel is accused of violating, involves a complicated and controversial balancing test.
Geneva Convention Protocol I contains one version of the proportionality test, the International Criminal Court Statute another; neither is universally accepted. As a result, the proportionality test is governed by "customary international law," an amalgam of non-universal treaty law, court decisions, and how influential nations actually behave. It does not hinge on the relative number of casualties, or the force used, however, but on the intent of the combatant. Under customary international law, proportionality prohibits attacks expected to cause incidental death or injury to civilians if this harm would, on balance, be excessive in relation to the overall legitimate military accomplishment anticipated.
At Qana, Israeli aircraft fired toward a building to stop Hezbollah from shooting rockets at its cities. The aircraft did not deliberately target civilians; but Hezbollah rockets are targeted at civilians, a clear war crime. U.N. humanitarian chief Jan Egeland last week called on Hezbollah to stop its "cowardly blending" among women and children: "I heard they were proud because they lost very few fighters and that it was the civilians bearing the brunt of this." If Hezbollah used Lebanese civilians in Qana as "human shields," then Hezbollah, not Israel, is legally responsible for their deaths.
If Israel was mistaken and Hezbollah was not firing from or hiding amongst these civilians, the legality of its action is assessed by the proportionality test. Because the test is vague, there have been few, if any, cases since World War II in which a soldier, commander or country has been convicted of violating it. In the absence of guidance from the courts, determining whether Israel's military has failed the proportionality test depends on an assessment of what civilian casualties it expected, what its overall military goals are, the context in which the country is operating, and how the international community has in practice balanced civilian risk against military goals.
Israel did not expect civilian casualties; it warned civilians to leave Qana, and Israel's official investigation has concluded its military attacked based on "information that the building was not inhabited by civilians and was being used as a hiding place for terrorists." The law of war recognizes that mistakes are inevitable, and does not criminalize soldiers who seek in good faith seek to avoid them.
Israel's overall military goal is to survive attacks by enemies determined to annihilate it. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has stated: "Israel . . . is an aggressive, illegal and illegitimate entity, which has no future. . . . Its destiny is manifested in our motto: 'Death to Israel.' " Thus Israel is attempting to prevent Hezbollah from using its 10,000 remaining rockets, and to implement the requirement of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 that Hezbollah be disarmed.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah and Iran--which provides this terrorist group with arms, direction and over $100 million a year--are in continual violation of international law. Their calls for Israel's destruction violate the international genocide treaty's prohibition of "direct and public incitement to commit genocide." Iran's effort to develop a nuclear arsenal that could obliterate Israel, or deter its responses to future Hezbollah attacks, violates the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Iranian (and Syrian) support for Hezbollah violates U.N. Security Council Resolution 1373, requiring states to "refrain from providing any form of support, active or passive, to entities or persons involved in terrorist acts." Hezbollah began the armed conflict with rocket attacks on Israeli towns and the abduction of Israeli soldiers: unprovoked acts of war violating an internationally recognized border.
Israel is acting in self-defense and avoided killing civilians, even giving advance notice by phone to the occupants of homes targeted for attack as Hezbollah hideouts. While Hezbollah deliberately maximizes harm to Israeli and Lebanese civilians, Israel puts its soldiers at risk to minimize Lebanese civilian casualties.
The track record of many of Israel's most powerful accusers--including China, Russia and the European Union--is not nearly as good at balancing civilian risk against military goals.
China killed hundreds of peaceful Tiananmen Square protestors in 1989. It has for five decades occupied Tibet, slaughtering tens of thousands; and it vows to invade Taiwan if it declares independence. Neither the Tiananmen protesters nor Tibet nor Taiwan has ever threatened to "wipe China off the map."
Russia has fought since 1994 to suppress Chechnya's independence movement. Out of a Chechen population of one million, as many as 200,000 have been killed as Russia has leveled the capital city of Grozny. Chechen rebels pose no threat to "wipe Russia off the map." All of the leading EU countries actively participated in NATO's 78-day bombing campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999. The military goal was to stop Yugoslavia from oppressing its Kosovar minority. NATO bombs and missiles hit Yugoslav bridges, power plants and a television station, killing hundreds of civilians. Yugoslavia posed no threat to the existence of any of the EU countries that bombed it.
Compared with how China, Russia, and the EU have dealt with non-existential threats--and despite the law-flouting behavior of Hezbollah, Iran and Syria--Israel's responses to the threats to its existence have been remarkably restrained rather than disproportionately violent.
Mr. Kittrie is professor of international law at Arizona State University and served in the Office of the Legal Adviser at the U.S. State Department from 1993 to 2003.
[Used with permission from OpinionJournal.com, a web site from Dow Jones & Company, Inc.]
August 09, 2006
"A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."
-- James Madison (letter to W.T. Barry, 4 August 1822)
August 08, 2006
"It will not be too strong to say, that there will be a constant probability of seeing the station [of President] filled by characters pre-eminent for ability and virture."
-- Alexander Hamilton (Federalist No. 68, 14 March 1788)
August 07, 2006
"Here comes the orator! With his flood of words, and his drop of reason."
-- Benjamin Franklin (Poor Richard's Almanack, 1735)
Terrorism and the Media
Rachel Neuwirth has a provocative op-ed up about how the Media enables terrorism. Here's how she begins:
A major segment of the global media is behaving in a manner that makes terrorism and mass killings more likely rather than less likely. They enable and encourage terrorist slaughter of innocents by supplying providing a propaganda bonanza for the terrorist cause. Without the gain, there would be less incentive for the horrific behavior.
This is true now with Israeli defense measures against Hezbolla terrorism, and has been true for many years, especially during the long Arab-Israeli conflict. Not enough attention has been paid to media manipulation. It is long overdue that this be exposed and the media be confronted and held accountable.
Read the rest.
More on global warming
Noel Sheppard has a column up at The American Thinker that reports on a recent paper published in Science magazine that refutes the theory that global warming is making hurricanes stronger. In fact, the report asserts that hurricanes are not stronger worldwide.
Yet, as first reported by Martin Merzer of the Miami Herald on June 27, not all scientists are drinking Gore’s Kool-Aid:
Studies that link global warming to an increase in hurricane ferocity might be full of hot air, according to a research paper that will be published Friday in a major scientific journal.
The paper, co-written by Chris Landsea of the National Hurricane Center in West Miami-Dade, challenges earlier findings that hurricanes have grown more powerful in the last 30 years.
Go read the rest.
August 05, 2006
Happy 28th, my Love!
Twenty-eight years ago today -- on Saturday, August 5, 1978 -- I married my best friend.
Things were crazy then. We had been dating for over 3 years and had been engaged for a year. We were both young. My family had just moved back to Houston from Pennsylvania. My first college career had reached its nadir and I had moved on to working in industrial construction. My Lady had reached a crossroads in her academic career and was uncertain how to continue.
Yet with all of those uncertainties in our lives we were certain of one thing: that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. We wanted to face whatever life would bring us as a team.
I'm sure several of our more mature friends and family members had reservations about us marrying. I was a bit scared myself. This was a tremendous commitment for the remainder of our lives. And yet, everytime I looked into my Lady's eyes, I saw her commitment to us and her resolve to make it work no matter what. And I saw her love for me.
That was 28 years ago. Our first year of marriage was the worst one -- they've been getting better every year since. Both sets of our parents helped out occasionally, as parents do, and we are grateful for them. Our Lord has played a large part in our lives and has blessed us so wonderfully. We managed to earn three college degrees and a couple of professional certifications between us. We are raising two wonderful daughters, one is 15 and the other is 8. We both have fufilling careers as professionals, and as parents.
And when I look into the now-wiser eyes of my beautiful best friend, I still see her commitment and resolve. And her steady love for me.
We laugh and cry together. We agonize over and delight in raising our girls together. We worship and serve together in our church. We shop for groceries together, and cook together. We even shower together (to conserve water, of course).
We do as much together as we can, my best friend and I.
Honey, I love you more now than I have ever loved you before. You are a wonderful mother to our girls, a good daughter, a dedicated educator, a devoted wife, a kind and giving Christian. And a magnificent friend.
For some mysterious reason, God thought enough of me to bless me with you. And I am eternally grateful.
Happy anniversary, my love! It has been a wild and wonderful ride with you through the years. I look forward to many, many more.
It's very special being married to my best friend.
I am humbled and honored by your love.
And I return it without reservation.
I love you, Babe.
August 04, 2006
"It is evident from the state of the country, from the habits of the people, from the experience we have had on the point itself, that it is impracticable to raise any very considerable sums by direct taxation."
-- Alexander Hamilton (Federalist No. 12, 27 November 1787)
My family and I will be travelling to Houston and environs for a long weekend.
I doubt seriously that I'll be doing much, if any, blogging after today due to 1) I only have access to a dial up connection and, 2) I have failed to prepare anything in advance.
I will be able resume blogging next week when we get back home.
The end in sight?
Steve Shippert, over at ThreatsWatch has an op-ed up wherein he predicts the imminent demise of Hizbollah. Here's how he begins:
Amid the relentless images of the dead extracted from a building in Qana, amid the fiery anger those images generated – from Lebanon to Europe and from Egypt to Indonesia - and amid deafening global cries for an immediate ceasefire, a curiously contradictory picture is emerging from the battlefields of Hizballistan: Hizballah is on the ropes, running short of resources and desperate for a ceasefire for its very survival.
While the world has held itself aghast at ‘Israeli aggression,’ Israel has been relentless in pursuit of what has been described as the fiercest Arab fighting force in the region. Undeterred by global outcry as over two thousand rockets and missiles have rained down upon Israeli cities with relatively little note, Israel has made good on their Prime Minister’s declaration of “Enough.”
Israel is providing a lesson on fighting the war on terror.
I hope he's right. Read the whole thing.
The cost of lawyers
John Stossel has an interesting article over at Townhall about the costs of litigation in America -- and they are more than just monetary costs.
Critics of lawsuit abuse tend to focus only on the cost of litigation. The cost is nasty. But the higher cost is just the start of the nasty side effects. What's worse is that fear of lawsuits now deprives us of things that make our lives better.
Sure, fear of the "invisible fist" makes manufacturers more careful. Some lives have been saved because the litigation threat got companies to make their products safer. That's the "seen" benefit.
But that benefit comes with a bigger unseen cost: The fear that stops the bad things stops good things, too -- new vaccines, new drugs, new medical devices. Fear suffocates the innovation that, over the past century, has helped extend our life spans by almost 30 years. Every day, we lose good things.
[Hat tip to Betsy.]
August 03, 2006
"In the first place, there is not a syllable in the plan under consideration which directly empowers the national courts to construe the laws according to the spirit of the Constitution, or which gives them any greater latitude in this respect than may be claimed by the courts of every State."
-- Alexander Hamilton (Federalist No. 81, 1788)
Ed Morrissey has a good op-ed up at The Examiner about "the soft nihilism of low expectations" concerning the conduct of war by terrorists. Israel is held to a high standard in terms of the Geneva Conventions and the conduct of war. Hizbollah, on the other hand, gets a free pass.
This creates an impossible double standard for Israel and political victories. In order to defeat terrorists, Israel will have to engage them when they attack, wherever that happens to be. In their effort to zealously apply the rules of war to only one side, the global community doesn’t act to reduce the tragedies of civilian casualties, it increases them by encouraging Hezbollah’s tactics. The terrorists counted on precisely this response, which dictates their tactics and strategy to this moment.
The Lebanese caught in this vise should seek redress in Beirut. Unfortunately, the same global community that castigates Israel for unintentional collateral damage has let the Lebanese government off the hook for failing to disarm Hezbollah, as demanded by Security Council resolution 1559. Had the Saniora government done so, this war would never have started. And while the Lebanese Army would have difficulty with that task, Beirut never asked for any assistance in meeting its obligations.
Why does the international community perpetuate this double standard?
If Hezbollah wins
OpinionJournal has a thoughtful article up about what would happen if Israel loses this war against Hezbollah.
A premature cease-fire now would allow Hezbollah to claim a victory over Israel and emerge as a stronger regional power. Even a best-case scenario would probably see Israel again fighting Hezbollah--at a time of Hezbollah's choosing and as the dominant force in a future Lebanese government. There could also be trouble for Israel with other neighbors, since Israel would have forfeited the aura of military invincibility that has kept it relatively safe for decades in such a rough neighborhood.
I've reprinted it in the extended entry.
Olmert and Bush
The consequences of an Israeli defeat would be ugly.
Tuesday, August 1, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT
The deaths of dozens of Lebanese civilians in an Israeli airstrike at Qana on Sunday is a tragedy. But tragedies happen in all wars, which is why they shouldn't be fought without good reason and the determination to win. We hope that's the lesson Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the Bush Administration are drawing as international criticism reaches its highest point so far in the three-week offensive against Hezbollah.
The initial, muted reaction from most of the major Arab states showed that their leaders were quietly happy that Hezbollah and its Iranian patrons might be dealt a heavy blow. They understand the mullahs' imperial aims, and that Hezbollah's rockets are a foretaste of what they too might expect if Tehran gets a nuclear bomb. But public opinion against Israel in the Muslim world remains strong and hasn't been helped by daily pictures of destroyed Beirut apartment blocks.
It also appears that Israel's bombing campaign hasn't done nearly as much damage to Hezbollah as first thought. Sunday saw more Katyusha rockets (about 150) launched into Israel than any previous day in the war--and Hezbollah is believed to have used up only a fraction of its stockpile. Israeli Defense Forces clearly underestimated Hezbollah's capabilities and overestimated their ability to degrade them from the air.
The question is what now. One temptation for the Bush Administration, which is under fire from most Arab leaders including Iraq's, will be to rein in Israel quickly. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been talking about pushing a cease-fire through the U.N. later this week, although the timetable seems to have been pushed back. One of the ideas is that a multinational force would then help Lebanon's government disarm Hezbollah.
But moving too soon, and with Hezbollah still powerful, risks replaying the disastrous scenario that unfolded in August 1982. That's when civilian casualties related to attacks on PLO strongholds in Beirut led the Reagan Administration to demand a halt to the fighting. The resulting events--insertion of multinational forces, the Marine barracks bombing, and U.S. withdrawal--are still cited by the likes of Osama bin Laden as evidence the civilized world has no stomach for a hard fight.
A premature cease-fire now would allow Hezbollah to claim a victory over Israel and emerge as a stronger regional power. Even a best-case scenario would probably see Israel again fighting Hezbollah--at a time of Hezbollah's choosing and as the dominant force in a future Lebanese government. There could also be trouble for Israel with other neighbors, since Israel would have forfeited the aura of military invincibility that has kept it relatively safe for decades in such a rough neighborhood.
Leaders in Tehran and Damascus would also conclude that employing terrorist proxies works. Iran could roll ahead with its bomb program knowing that Europe and the U.S. can be easily intimidated. Lebanon's fledgling democracy would be another casualty. President Bush's entire vision for the Middle East would suffer a severe setback if the current fighting ends with Hezbollah still a credible military force.
Israel does not deliberately target civilians, much less children. They were hit in Qana because Hezbollah operates near civilians to use them as a shield and to exploit such tragedies as to turn world opinion against Israel. Hezbollah has been the consistent and flagrant violator of international law throughout this conflict--deliberately targeting Israeli civilians with shrapnel-filled missiles, fighting out of uniform, and hiding among Lebanese civilians and helpless U.N. peacekeepers.
If these and other tactics remind you of al Qaeda and the insurgents in Iraq, they should. They are the reality of today's asymmetrical terrorist methods, and their success in Lebanon will only mean the further spread of those methods against others in the Mideast and beyond.
So we hope that, while Ms. Rice pursues diplomatic options, privately Mr. Bush is telling Mr. Olmert that Israel must finish the job he started against Hezbollah--including a ground invasion of southern Lebanon if that's what it takes. American support for Israel's strategy is far from cost-free for Mr. Bush, and Mr. Olmert has to understand that it won't continue if he lacks the will to prevail as rapidly as militarily possible.
There are certainly risks to this strategy, in the loss of more Israeli and Lebanese lives and further global criticism of both the Jewish state and the U.S. But now that the war has been joined, and Israel has pledged not to stop without disarming Hezbollah, a defeat for Israel will mean more danger and far more casualties down the road.
[Used with permission from OpinionJournal.com, a web site from Dow Jones & Company, Inc.]
Larry Kudlow has some good things to say about our economy. He also points out that investors are optimistic about the economy -- despite high energy costs, natural disasters, and war in the Middle East.
Could it also be that world stock markets are rallying as Israel and its freedom agenda advances toward a Hezbollah-free Lebanese border, highlighting a significant defeat not only of the thuggish and cowardly Hezbollah murderers, but their totalitarian backers in Syria and Iran?
Go read the whole thing.
August 02, 2006
"Let the pulpit resound with the doctrine and sentiments of religious liberty. Let us hear of the dignity of man's nature, and the noble rank he holds among the works of God... Let it be known that British liberties are not the grants of princes and parliaments."
-- John Adams (Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1765)
Global good news
Michael Barone sees some good things going on in the world.
But as we ponder these problems, we need to take a deep breath and reflect on the larger picture, as Thomas Barnett does in his blog (Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog):
"Plenty of people look at the world today and see only decline and violence and chaos since 9/11. I am amazed at how little the Functioning Core of globalization has suffered since that date: no real violence or threats of same amidst our ranks, slow but steady political integration that's still not keeping up with the economic bonds that are booming, spotty but emerging sense of shared security values, and the usual pinpricks of harm inflicted by terror and God, but all in all, nothing really bad despite all this 'tumult' centered in the Middle East and the rising price of oil."
1996 Welfare Reform Law
Read all about it in the extended entry.
The doomsayers were dead wrong about reform.
BY RON HASKINS
Sunday, July 30, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT
Ten years ago next month, a bipartisan majority in Congress and a Democratic president launched America's welfare policy in a new and largely uncharted direction.
It would be difficult to exaggerate the predictions of doom hurled against the Republican welfare reform bill signed by President Clinton on Aug. 22, 1996. Mr. Clinton had previously vetoed two versions of welfare reform when, with skill, daring and persistence, Republicans in the House and Senate pushed it through Congress a third time and put it again on the president's desk. In an act of remarkable political courage, Mr. Clinton defied senior members of his own party and most of the American left and signed the radical bill into law.
The left, led by senior Democrats in Congress, the editorial pages of many of the nation's leading newspapers, the Catholic bishops, child advocates in Washington and the professoriate, had assaulted the bill in terms that are rare, even by today's coarse standards. Democrats speaking on the floor of the House labeled the bill "harsh," "cruel" and "mean-spirited." They claimed that it "attacked," "punished" and "lashed out at" children. Columnist Bob Herbert said the bill conducted a "jihad" against the poor, made "war on kids" and "deliberately inflict[ed] harm" on children and the poor. Sen. Frank Lautenberg said poor children would be reduced to "begging for money, begging for food, and . . . engaging in prostitution."
Many Democrats and pundits shouted that the bill would throw a million children into poverty. Marion Wright Edelman of the Children's Defense Fund said that no one who believed in the Judeo-Christian tradition could support the bill. Even God, it seemed, opposed the evil Republican bill.
The major reform that evoked this onslaught was the proposal to end the entitlement, or legal guarantee of cash benefits, promised by the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program. Kate O'Beirne, now of National Review, perfectly captured the philosophy of entitlement in 1995 testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee, saying that the nation's welfare system operated on the principle of "spend more, demand less." Republicans wanted to demand more by breaking the entitlement and making the cash contingent on serious attempts to find work and achieve self-support.
After three decades of failed federal "work" programs, Republicans had spent years behind the scenes--under the leadership of Newt Gingrich, Clay Shaw, Rick Santorum, Jim Talent and others--developing ideas about how to encourage, cajole or, when necessary, force mothers on welfare to work. Specifically, Republicans proposed to end the entitlement to cash, impose a five-year time limit on benefits, require mothers to prepare for and search for work or have their cash benefit reduced or terminated, and require states to place half their welfare caseload in programs that lead to employment.
Granted, this new system would subject poor mothers to greater risk than the entitlement system it replaced. But in this regard welfare mothers would be no different from millions of other low-income Americans who rely on personal effort rather than government largesse.
Besides, Republicans argued, Congress had created a series of programs that provided substantial support to poor and low-income working families. A typical mother leaving welfare for work earns only around $10,000 per year laboring in an $8 per hour job--the only kind of job for which most poor mothers are qualified. But the Earned Income Tax Credit gives them up to an additional $4,500 (in today's dollars), they qualify for food stamps worth around $2,000, their children are covered by Medicaid, and most who need help paying for child care receive it. On earnings of $10,000, then, mothers leaving welfare have total income of well over $16,000 in cash or near cash--more than twice as much as they would have had on welfare--and their health insurance and child care are usually covered.
In the decade that has passed since the 1996 reforms, the welfare rolls have plummeted by nearly 60%, the first sustained decline since the program was enacted in 1935. Equally important, the employment of single mothers heading families reached the highest level ever. As a group, mothers heading families with incomes of less than about $21,000 per year increased their earnings every year between 1994 and 2000 while simultaneously receiving less money from welfare payments. In inflation-adjusted dollars, they were about 25% better off in 2000 than in 1994, despite the fall in their welfare income.
Over the same period, the child-poverty level enjoyed its most sustained decline since the early 1970s; and both black-child poverty and poverty among female-headed families reached their lowest level ever. Even after four years of increases following the recession of 2001, the child poverty level is still 20% lower than it was before the decline began. Similarly, measures of consumption and hunger show that the material conditions of low-income, female-headed families have improved. Although welfare reform was not without problems, none of the disasters predicted by the left materialized. Indeed, national surveys show that almost every measure of child well-being--except obesity--has improved since the mid-1990s.
The 1996 law, in perhaps the most direct legislative clash of liberal and conservative welfare principles since the New Deal, was a victory for conservative principles. Poor mothers scored a victory for themselves and their children, showing that given adequate motivation and support from work-based government programs, they can join the American mainstream, set an example for their children and communities, and pull themselves and their children out of poverty.
But there's a rub for conservatives: Now and for the foreseeable future, the nation will have millions of poorly educated and unmarried young mothers who are capable of producing labor value of around $8 per hour when they first enter the labor market. They face a Hobson's choice of living in poverty on welfare or living in poverty while working--unless government subsidizes their income. These work-based subsidies--the Earned Income Tax Credit, Medicaid, child care, and so forth--were already in place in 1996 and have been improved since. In effect, welfare reform made government benefits contingent on work, poor mothers responded appropriately, and the combination of earnings and government benefits brought them and their children out of poverty.
Still, there's a lot here for everybody to like--work for conservatives and work-contingent government benefits for the left. The irony of welfare reform is that it firmly implanted the conservative principle of self-sufficiency in federal policy which, in turn, brought the liberal principle of government support for the poor into its most effective form--namely, encouraging work.
Above all, welfare reform showed that work--even low-wage work--provides a more durable foundation for social policy than handouts.
Mr. Haskins is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of "Work Over Welfare: The Inside Story of the 1996 Welfare Reform Law," forthcoming from Brookings.
[Used with permission from OpinionJournal.com, a web site from Dow Jones & Company, Inc.]
Immigration reform needed
The LA Times has an interesting article about illegal immigrants and their 10 kids.
Neither Magdaleno nor her husband speaks English, though she has been in the United States 22 years and he 28. Even her teenage daughters speak mostly Spanish; their English vocabulary is limited.
Yet all of Magdaleno's 10 children are U.S. citizens. The triplets receive subsidized school lunches. All the youngsters have had their healthcare bills covered by Medi-Cal, the state and federal healthcare program for the poor.
A sibling, on the other hand, emigrated to Kentucky, had only two children and worked toward a better life.
Today, the Magdalenos in Lexington earn more than they did in Los Angeles, in a city where the cost of living is lower. Kentucky is now their promised land, and they talk about California the way they used to talk about Mexico.
"What we weren't able to do in many years in California," Alejandra said, "we've done quickly here.
"We're in a state where there's nothing but Americans. The police control the streets. It's clean, no gangs. California now resembles Mexico — everyone thinks like in Mexico. California's broken."
I think this speaks volumes about the need to assimilate immigrants into this nation -- rather than encouraging them to retain their previous national identity.
August 01, 2006
"I am not a Virginian, but an American."
-- Patrick Henry (speech in the First Continental Congress, 6 September 1774)
Hugh Hewitt points out that Hezbollah is all about murdering people. And those who take exception to Israel's response in Lebanon need to remember that fact. Here's how he begins:
The tragedy of the deaths of children and adult civilians should not obscure that every day the Hezbollah terrorists send barrages of rockets into Israel, each one of which is intended to kill civilians and in far greater numbers than died in Qana. The incompetence of Hezbollah's munition makers is somehow obscuring the scale of its terrorism. If the 9/11 attacks had only killed 300, would the U.S. not have invaded Afghanistan and later Iraq? Hezbollah has tried for three weeks to inflict a 9/11 on Israel, but Israel is being damned because its defensive measures have led to civilians held hostage by terrorists. This is an insane inversion of the laws of war and customary international law as well as of common sense. Hezbollah began this war and is responsible for the deaths of everyone on both sides of the Israel-Lebanon border.
Each day of the war Israel struggles to minimize harm to civilians. Each day Hezbollah tries to kill them and uses Lebanese civilians as hostages.
He makes some good points about how the international cry for a cease-fire is just playing into the terrorists hands.
Likewise the outcry about civilian deaths in Qana:
Whatever works is repeated. Condemning Israel for the deaths of civilians living near terrorist missile launchers will only result in the placement of more terrorist missile launchers near civilians. If the world wants to end this war, the UN should join Israel is demanding the international community organize a fighting force to take over from Israel the necessary work of removing Hezbollah as a threat to the civilians on both sides of the border and should rush sanctions on Iran and Syria for their supply of indiscriminate weapons to non-state actors.
I'll go one step further.
All of us have got to bite this bullet and work diligently toward making terrorism an extremely violent and short career path.
Until all of the terrorists are dead and gone.
Only then will we have peace.
If we settle for anything less, we're just fooling ourselves.
Go read the rest.
Bad news from Iraq
Bill Crawford points out some disturbing news about USAID using accounting tricks to hide cost overruns on reconstruction projects in Iraq.
The US agency in charge of $US1.4 billion ($1.8 billion) in reconstruction money in Iraq used an accounting shell game to hide cost overruns on its projects and withheld information on schedule delays from Congress, an audit has found.
Hiding among women and children
An article in yesterday's Herald Sun in Australia provides evidence that supports the allegation that Hezbollah is using civilians as human shields.
THIS is the picture that damns Hezbollah. It is one of several, smuggled from behind Lebanon's battle lines, showing that Hezbollah is waging war amid suburbia.
The images, obtained exclusively by the Sunday Herald Sun, show Hezbollah using high-density residential areas as launch pads for rockets and heavy-calibre weapons.
Where is the outrage?
Hizbollah -- not your usual terrorist group
Bill Roggio, over at Counterterrorism Blog, has a post up about the sophistication of Hezbollah's army in Lebanon.
We began discussing Hezbollah's military capabilities on July 21, after it became clear during the ambush of the Golani Brigade forced the unit to retreat near Maroun al-Ras that Hezbollah was not your average militia. On that date we noted "Hezbollah also possesses mortars, RPGs, anti-tank and anti-personnel mines, anti-tank missiles and possibly surface to air missiles.... Hezbollah is using infantry tactics and fighting at the squad and platoon level." The IDF's slow advance (over two days) into Bint Jubayl and the ambush on a tank unit were clear indications of Hezbollah's abilities to stand up to the IDF as well as the IDF's cautious nature on the battlefield. Yesterday we confirmed Hezbollah is fighting at the company level, has specialized units (mortars, antitank, logistics, etc.) in its combat units and is using sophisticated communications equipment, body armor and other gear.
It's well worth reading . . .