Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Why we should vaccinate our kids

I've blogged before about the irrational fear and misinformation that keeps Americans from vaccinating their children. And of course, someone has done it better. Check out this intelligent, well-supported, emphatic Michael Fumento article, challenging the prevailing misinformation out there and urging parents to vaccinate their children.

Useless aid for Africa

Jonathan Tobin makes the obvious point regarding the Life8 crew's self-righteous and self-congratulatory demand that the rich nations send ever more money to Africa:

Geldoff wants concert-goers to exert pressure on the Bush administration and other heads of state in advance of the annual G8 conference of industrial powers, to be held next month in Scotland. It's simple: Listen to music, and then make the rich give to the poor. Self-righteousness comes pretty cheap these days, and you'd have to be an incorrigible curmudgeon to say anything bad about it, wouldn't you? But there's a real problem with this mass-produced activism: It isn't likely to help the Third World poor. As it so happens, the developed nations, including the wicked Americans, have already donated untold billions for this very purpose. The United Nations, the World Bank and the G-8 countries have all tried their hand at it. And yet, the result hasn't been what they intended. Instead of ending poverty, the money earmarked for aid to impoverished Africans and expensive development projects has had little effect on the availability of clean water, the control of diseases or even the AIDS pandemic. What aid to Third World nations has instead done is reinforce the power of the small, undemocratic and corrupt elites in those countries, and enrich them while consigning virtually everybody else to despair.
Wasn't it Hillary or Bill who said, to the MSM's appreciative amusement, that insanity is doing the identical thing over and over again, but expecting a different result? Tobin points out the better way -- a way that is proven:
But there is a model for how a debt-ridden nation can free itself of the bonds of foreign economic control. Interestingly enough, it took place right here in Philly. Some 215 years ago, when the American republic was in its infancy, the United States was weighed down with debt, and newly inaugurated President George Washington was faced with a bankrupt economy. But rather than follow the advice of followers of Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and allow debts to be repudiated, Washington listened to Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton believed that America could prosper only by establishing a government that paid its debts, supported its currency and encouraged a free economy for its citizens. And that's exactly what he did. To the amazement of the world, the credit of the United States was soon good, and the American economic engine was primed to take on Europe. If we live in prosperity today, it's because of the vision of Hamilton, whom biographer Ron Chernow aptly described as "the prophet of the capitalist revolution in America," and not that of the agrarian Jefferson.

Government reallocation of wealth

After putting up a stiff fight for years, the town of Corte Madera, in Marin County, California, was forced by a court order to use taxpayer coffers to build affordable housing that will almost certainly decrease homeowners' property values. Clearly, if you thought Kelo was the only government assault on community rights, you were wrong. Please note that here, it was a Court that forced a town to take a step that it was obviously unwilling -- very unwilling -- to take. Those suburban dwellers who escaped the big cities knew full well that any housing that falls within HUD's purview is a recipe for blight, crime, and falling property values. It will be interesting to sit back and watch whether the community can sustain this "court knows best" social engineering at the Town's expense.

Patriotic young Americans step up to bat

I think this is good news:

After months of declining enlistment, the Army has more than met its recruitment goals for the month of June. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers announced the turnaround during a 'town hall' meeting this afternoon at the Pentagon. Myers did not provide numbers, nor did he indicate how far above the recruitment target the enlistment number is. Going into the month of June, the Army had failed to meet its recruitment goals for four consecutive months. Officials blame a strong economy and the continuing carnage in Iraq. Just last night, during his speech on the situation in Iraq, President Bush urged Americans to consider joining one of the service branches during this time of war.
As a soft-living coward, I remain perpetually grateful to Americans young and old, who have the toughness and courage to step forward to protect our freedoms.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The end of the world as we know it

John Hawkins conducts a fascinating interview with Mark Steyn. I was particularly taken with this back and forth:

John Hawkins: In a recent column, you said: 'The 21st century will be an Anglosphere century, with America, India and Australia leading the way.' Why don't you see Europe, China, or Russia as likely 'leaders' in the 21st century? Mark Steyn: Russia is diseased and literally dying. Russian men already have a lower life expectancy than Bangladeshis. By 2050 that vast sprawling nation will have a smaller population than tiny Yemen. There’s no precedent for this in a relatively advanced nation not at war, and the only question is how peacefully Russia goes into its long dark night. That’s also a question for Europe, too - how smoothly it manages its transition to a majority Muslim society by the end of this century. On that, I'd bet on form – ie, violent conflagration, mass slaughter, bloody revolution, etc. Russia and Europe will be foreign policy management problems for the United States but not serious economic, cultural, or military rivals. As for China, the present day Communist boomtown is a fascinating anomaly, but in the end its political deformity will cause it serious problems.
I was also struck by this:
John Hawkins: This line is from one of your columns:
"Two years after ''the day America changed forever,'' the culture is in thrall to the same dopey self-delusion it held on Sept. 10, 2001: There are no enemies, just friends we haven't yet apologized to."
Today, in 2005 that seems truer than ever, well, at least on the left. Why do think the American left has become so incapable of dealing with foreign policy threats? Mark Steyn: There are two malign trends of the last four decades, and in the war on terror they’ve merged. For the far left, the issue is always America. So, if America's destabilizing some Marxist-Leninist socialist utopia the left takes the side of the Marxist-Leninist socialist utopia. Likewise, if America's at odds with misogynist racist homophobic theocrats, the left takes the side of the sodomite-beheaders and the freelance clitorectomy performers. That’s entirely consistent once you realize it’s simply a choice of United States vs [Your Name Here]. More worrying is the complete evaporation of the moderate credible foreign policy Scoop Jackson Democrats. I would attribute this to the descent into legalism of the soft left. You see this in John Kerry's view of terrorism as a matter for law enforcement and subpoenas - a strategy that's completely failed when cases have come to trial in Germany, Britain, Holland and elsewhere. And, when it comes to Guantanamo, too many Democrats have a John Edwards-like tendency to talk about terrorists as if they're one almighty class-action suit they can't wait to sign up. A buffoon like Dick Durbin – making a legalistic “terrorists’ rights” argument with deranged Hitler comparisons – is the perfect embodiment of both the soft and hard left.
The whole interview is very long and, since I'm a Mark Steyn groupie, I consider every word worth reading.

As Europe declines, will it take Britain with it?

Here Mark Steyn tackles the inevitable decline in Europe as that continent abandons the basic societal glue of religion, family and work, and questions whether England will disengage herself from this free fall. Because I love Steyn's writing so much, let me share with you here is point about the separation of sex and religion in England (and elsewhere):

[W]hat's at issue is not which of us is getting more and better casual sex but whether it's an appropriate organising principle for society. Or at any rate whether a cult of non-procreative self-gratification is, as the eco-crazies like to say, "sustainable".
He is, of course, right, and he manages to say it with such style....

The politics of plays

Take my word for it: Read Mark Steyn's review of My Name is Rachel Corrie, a wonderful piece of journalism that takes on both the play's own inadequacies, and the failure in the way Europe (and especially Britain) view with a soft focus the Palestinian cause.

The case for a static Constitution

After a very funny riff about the Democrats' demand for a "living, breathing" Constitution, with the implication that the conservatives want their Constitution "dead, dead, dead" Jonah Goldberg gets to the meat of the matter:

The case for dead constitutions is simple. They bind us to a set of rules for everybody. Recall the recent debate about the filibuster. The most powerful argument the Democrats could muster was that if you get rid of the traditional right of the minority in the Senate to bollix up the works, the Democrats will deny that right to Republicans the next time they’re in the majority (shudder). The Constitution works on a similar principle, as does the rule of law. Political scientists call this “precommitment.” Having a set of rules with a fixed (i.e., dead, unliving, etc.) meaning ensures that future generations will be protected from judges or politicians who’d like to rule arbitrarily. This is what Chesterton was getting at when he called tradition “democracy for the dead.” We all like to believe that we have some say about what this country will be like for our children and grandchildren. A “living Constitution” denies us our voice in this regard because it basically holds that whatever decisions we make — including the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments — can be thrown out by any five dyspeptic justices on the Supreme Court. In other words, the justices who claim the Constitution is a wild card didn’t take their oath to uphold and defend the Constitution in good faith because they couldn’t know what they were swearing to. “What distinguishes the rule of law from the dictatorship of a shifting Supreme Court majority,” Justice Scalia wrote this week, “is the absolutely indispensable requirement that judicial opinions be grounded in consistently applied principle. That is what prevents judges from ruling now this way, now that — thumbs up or thumbs down — as their personal preferences dictate.”
He is, of course, absolutely right. I still shudder when I think of an appearance I made in Court many years ago before a very liberal judge. I was representing the defendant, and I'd filed a good brief (if I do say so myself) methodically demonstrating that the plaintiffs' claim did not exist under the law -- indeed, that the California Legislature, some time before, had deliberately removed the books the only statute that might give some color to that claim. My judge didn't care: "You're right," he said. "But I think there's something there. You're motion to dismiss is denied." That's not rule of law, that's tyranny.

How we can lose

Scott D has it in a nutshell:

The coalition forces cannot be defeated. They cannot be conquered in the field, they cannot be vanquished. They cannot be cut off and forced to wither away due to lack of supply, and there is no tactic or stratagem that is effective in dealing with an American military force. The average person being spoon fed their opinions via media outlets might ask, if our forces are so clearly superior, and the enemy has no chance of victory over our forces, then how could we possibly lose? Easily. We have a huge portion of the population unwilling to face any kind of adversity. And this is not just about Iraq--it's an ingrained personality trait in many of our fellow Americans that affects many other aspects of our society. For all our defender's courage, skill, and dedication, the international community--and our enemies--know something about the American people: When we bleed, we leave.
As I've noted before, the tragedy in this is our weakness, acquired sometime after WWII (after Iwo Jima, after the Bataan Death March, after the Battle of the Bulge, etc.), is manna for the Bin Ladens of this world. They prick us enough, we deflate. They're not lions, they're jackals -- and we repeatedly allow ourselves to be left for dead, ripe for their pickings.

Peggy Noonan pops some egos

Peggy Noonan asks why politicians today think so highly of themselves, and speak of their mundane actions in some hyperbolic terms. As part of this, she launches a very funny, and accurate, attack on Barack Obama, the MSM's favorite Demo poster boy:

This week comes the previously careful Sen. Barack Obama, flapping his wings in Time magazine and explaining that he's a lot like Abraham Lincoln, only sort of better. "In Lincoln's rise from poverty, his ultimate mastery of language and law, his capacity to overcome personal loss and remain determined in the face of repeated defeat--in all this he reminded me not just of my own struggles." Oh. So that's what Lincoln's for. Actually Lincoln's life is a lot like Mr. Obama's. Lincoln came from a lean-to in the backwoods. His mother died when he was 9. The Lincolns had no money, no standing. Lincoln educated himself, reading law on his own, working as a field hand, a store clerk and a raft hand on the Mississippi. He also split some rails. He entered politics, knew more defeat than victory, and went on to lead the nation through its greatest trauma, the Civil War, and past its greatest sin, slavery. Barack Obama, the son of two University of Hawaii students, went to Columbia and Harvard Law after attending a private academy that taught the children of the Hawaiian royal family. He made his name in politics as an aggressive Chicago vote hustler in Bill Clinton's first campaign for the presidency. You see the similarities. There is nothing wrong with Barack Obama's résumé, but it is a log-cabin-free zone. So far it also is a greatness-free zone. If he keeps talking about himself like this it always will be. Mr. Obama said he keeps a photographic portrait of Lincoln on the wall of his office, and that "it asks me questions." I'm sure it does. I'm sure it says, "Barack, why are you such an egomaniac?" Or perhaps, "Is it no longer possible in American politics to speak of another's greatness without suggesting your own?"
Showing herself even-handed, Noonan also takes on Bill Frist, who huffs and puffs, and blows himself down:
Even so sober an actor as Bill Frist has gotten into the act. This is the beginning of his Heritage Foundation speech yesterday:
You might have been wondering these last few months: Why would a doctor take on an issue like the judicial confirmation process? About 10 years ago, I set aside my medical career to run for the Senate. But I didn't set aside my compassion. I didn't set aside my character. And I sure as heck didn't set aside my principles. I got into politics for the same reason I got into medicine. I wanted to help people. And I wanted to heal. I just felt that, in politics, I could help and heal more than one patient at a time.
I admire Bill Frist, but can you imagine George Washington referring in public, or in private for that matter, to his many virtues? In normal America if you have a high character you don't wrestle people to the ground until they acknowledge it. You certainly don't announce it. If you are compassionate, you are compassionate; if others see it, fine. If you hold to principle it will become clear. You don't proclaim these things. You can't, for the same reason that to brag about your modesty is to undercut the truth of the claim.
I'll stop here, before I ended up simply quoting her entire article, but you should check it so you can see her take on the Clintons, too.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A good read for today -- or for any day

If you want broad ranging knowledge, intelligent insight, pointed humor, excellent writing, and just all around good stuff, read Cheat Seeking Missiles. There's so much in there that's worth reading, I can't even begin to link to any specific post.

Death by the numbers

The Left and the MSM (assuming they're different) love to point out that there have been 1,700 casualities in Iraq to date -- a number they insist justifies abandoning the task we've set for ourself (which, incidentally, will confirm Arab belief in our softness and encourage further attacks on American soil). Please don't think I'm belittling each individual sacrifice and each personal tragedy -- I'm not. I'm deeply grateful for the American troops who have given their lives to preserve freedom for my family and my country. But still, one has to put things in perspective. Phibian helps put things in perspective by linking to a powerful visual showing that, in a huge country, the casualties occurred along a basically narrow corridor. Although each is a child lost, a parent gone, a spouse murdered, they're also small numbers for a large country and a long war. Did I mention perspective? Take a look at these numbers, all in wars in which we stayed the course: The American Revolution: 4,435, out of a population of 3,500,000. The War of 1812: 2,260 out of a population of 7,600,000. The Mexican War: 1,733 combat deaths and 11,550 other deaths (disease, privation, accidents, POWs) out of a population of 21,100,000. The Civil War: 184,594 combat deaths and 373,458 other deaths (disease, privation, accidents, POWS) out of a population of 34,300,000. The Spanish-American War: 385 combat deaths and 2,061 other deaths (mostly yellow fever, I think) out of a population of 74,600,000. World War I: 53,513 combat deaths and 63,195 other deaths (many probably from the Spanish Influenza) out of a population of 102,800,000. World War II: 292,131 combat deaths and 115,185 other deaths (disease, death marches, POW camps, etc.) out of a population of 133,500,000. By the way, this was more than 6,600 dead per month. (Because this was the first truly modern war, the number of surviving wounded was huge: 670,846.) The Korean War: 33,651 combat deaths out of a population of 151,700,000. (Showing the advent of modern medicine, the Korean War, like WWII, was stunning for the number of wounded who didn't die: 103,284.) The Vietnam War: 47,369 combat deaths and 10,799 other deaths out of a population of 204,900,000. The First Gulf War: 148 combat deaths and 145 other deaths out of a population of 260,000,000. In many ways, this war set up a terrible template, in that it seemed to convince people -- certainly people on the Left -- that a war could be fought successfully with virtually no casualties. The Iraq War: 1,700 deaths out of a population of 281,421,906. Simply put, this war, while producing 1,700 individual tragedies, is not one of the big ones. And to put things another way, I've never, ever, ever, read or heard anywhere -- and I've done a lot of reading and listening -- that in the two biggest 20th Century wars the US fought (WWI and WWII) anybody, regardless of their political stripe, was demanding that the US withdraw immediately, or that it telegraph its timetable to the enemy. You fight wars to win. Period.

People that make America great

I am no fan of Newsweek, but I found this story incredibly moving:

The son of immigrant parents, Joel Gomez did not take the American Dream for granted. He fought for it. After high school at Wheaton-Warrenville South in Illinois, he joined the United States Army and later went off to serve in Iraq. In March 2004, his tank crashed in the Tigris River, and Sergeant Gomez was paralyzed from the neck down. Gomez, who will never walk again, assumed that after treatment he would go back to his little basement apartment in Wheaton, just another forgotten casualty of war. His hometown saw it otherwise. This 24-year-old native son deserved better—and he was going to get it. Michelle Senatore, a civic volunteer in Wheaton, spearheaded a campaign to raise money to build a big house for Gomez, a place that would be state-of-the-art for the disabled. Senatore, the daughter of a Vietnam vet who faced disdain when he came home from that war, vowed, 'I'm not going to let that happen to Joel.' The house-building dream would cost $400,000, a seemingly tall task, and require a massive amount of donated labor. 'If everyone works together in just a little way,' said Senatore, 'things can happen.'
And they did make things happen, building him a state of the art house, and taking care of all of his medical expenses and all the costs associated with his disability. By the way, I don't think it's any coincidence that the article describes Wheaton as "a community known for its rock-ribbed patriotism and deeply religious values."

The Hellhole Restaurant

Here Powerline points out the fiendish diet in the Hellhole at Gitmo, consisting of fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy, starches, proteins, etc. As I'm sure is true with all institutional menus, it sounds better on paper than it does in the cafeteria (so to speak) -- but then again, we all remember our school lunches. I thought I'd contrast this Hellhole cuisine with the diet in a few places Durbin mentioned (and a few he didn't) when castigating Gitmo: Auschwitz: Those Auschwitz prisoners "lucky" enough to be used as slave labor for I.G. Farben's factory, got a special "high nutrition" diet denied to the other prisoners:

Starvation was a permanent guest at Auschwitz. The diet fed to I.G. Auschwitz inmates, which included the famous `Buna Soup' - a nutritional aid not available to other prisoners - resulted in an average weight loss for each individual of about six and a half to nine pounds a week. At the end of a month, the change in the prisoner's appearance was marked; at the end of two months, the inmates were not recognizable except as caricatures formed of skin, bones, and practically no flesh; after three months, they were either dead or so unfit for work that they were marked for release to the gas chambers at Birkenau. Two physicians who studied the effect of the I.G. diet on the inmates noticed that `the normally nourished prisoner at Buna could make up the deficiency by his own body for a period of three months....The prisoners were condemned to burn up their own body weight while working and, providing no infections occurred, finally died of exhaustion.'
This comes from a heartrending article about a survivor:
Among the few child surviors of Auschwitz was an 11-year-old girl, Rena Marguilies -- my mother. *** My mother described the last time she saw her 9-year-old brother Romek -- the day he was selected to be gassed. "He took this piece of bread and threw it here over the fence to my mother and said, 'You take it. I won't need it any more.' And then he started crying and ran away into the barrack." Shipped in a cattle car from the slave labor camp Blizyn, my mom was tatooed upon arrival: prisoner A-15647. Her bed was a wooden slat, shared with nine people. Starvation was the daily diet: chicory-flavored water masquerading as coffee ... a sliver of bread ... and a bowl of watery soup.
One more about Auschwitz:
The people stepping off the car one by one were sorted by their age, profession, and ability to work as slave laborers. If the answer regarding your age and ability to work was to their liking you were told to go to left side, the children and elderly people were told to go to the right side. This sorting continued on for the whole day. The people on the right side went straight to the gas chambers as they were of no use for the Nazis. The people on the left side were then taken under guard to a big yard, had to take off their clothing, all of their jewelry and all were shaven from head to toes, all together, girls, boys, men and women. We were all issued striped uniforms, like pajamas. After this we were taken to the camp barracks, like bungalow, with nothing in it. The guards pushed everyone in until it was full. There was no place to turn, we were squashed like sardines. Later on we were given soup made of onion and potato skins and horsemeat. That was the daily food. At night there was enough room to sleep on one side, but not for turning.
The Killing Fields of Cambodia: As one history states, "[m]illions of Cambodians accustomed to city life were now forced into slave labor in Pol Pot's "killing fields" where they soon began dying from overwork, malnutrition and disease, on a diet of one tin of rice (180 grams) per person every two days. The Japanese Concentration camps in the South East: Marines imprisoned by the Japanese during WWII in Fukuoka Camp #1 on the Island of Kyushu:
The basic ration per prisoner per day was 300 grams of a mixture of rice, kafir corn and rolled barley, 100 grams of greens and 10 grams of fish, all boiled. The food generally was inferior in quality due in large part to pilferage by Japanese camp officials of better quality camp rations, and articles removed from Red Cross parcels on a selective basis. In American measurement of this ration, the equivalent is approximately 3/4 of a canteen cup of steamed rice and 1/2 of a canteen cup of soup. One small bun was added occasionally. This ration equaled 1500 calories. The food was prepared by British prisoner of war cooks. The diet was supplemented at long intervals by such perishable food as meat, fresh fish and vegetables, and on such occasions the regular Japanese ration was reduced. Usually some surplus of rice, dried fish and seaweed resulted when the supplemental food came into the camp. The surplus was pilfered, evidently with the knowledge of the commandant and converted into profit by and for the schemers.
How about the Bataan Death March:
The calculated campaign of brutality began as soon as the exhausted American and Filipino soldiers on Bataan collapsed under the overwhelming weight of the enemy assault. What was in store for them was to begin with “the march of death” — and Dyess reported that, beaten and hopeless as they were, they never would have surrendered if they had guessed what lay ahead. Thousands of prisoners were herded together on the Mariveles airfield at daylight April 10, within earshot of the still defiant guns of Corregidor. Some had food, but were not permitted to eat. All were searched, their personal belongings seized. Those with Japanese money or tokens were beheaded. Then, in groups of 500 to 1,000 they began the terrible six-day march, along the national road of Bataan toward San Fernando in Pampanga province, the “march of death” so hideous that it would make the black hole of Calcutta sound like a haven of refuge. A Japanese soldier took Dyess’ canteen, gave the water to a horse, threw the canteen away. In a broiling sun, the prisoners were herded through clouds of dust. Men recently killed lay along the road, their bodies flattened by Japanese trucks. Patients bombed out of a field hospital were pushed into the marching column. At midnight the entire group was penned in an enclosure too narrow to allow any of them to lie down. They had no water — a Japanese officer finally permitted them to drink at a dirty carabao wallow. Before daylight the next day the March was resumed. Still no food for any of them. — water at noon from a dirty roadside stream. Another bullpen at night. When exhausted men fell out moaning, no one was allowed to help — those who still marched heard shots behind them. On the third day “we were introduced to a form of torture which came to be known as the sun treatment. We were made to sit in the boiling sun all day without cover. We had very little water; our thirst was intense. Many of us went crazy and several died. “Three Filipino and three American soldiers were buried while still alive.” “Along the road in the province of Pampanga there are many wells. Half-crazed with thirst, six Filipino soldiers made a dash for one of the wells. All six were killed. As we passed Lubao we marched by a Filipino soldier gutted and hanging over a barbed-wire fence. “Before daylight on April 15 we marched out and 115 of us were packed into a small narrow-gauge box car. The doors were closed and locked. Movement was impossible. Many of the prisoners were suffering from diarrhea and dysentery. The heat and stench were unbearable. “At Capas Tarlac we were taken out and given the sun treatment for three hours. Then we were marched to Camp O’Donnell. “I made that march of about 85 miles in six days on one mess kit of rice. Other Americans made ‘the march of death’ in 12 days without any food whatever.” The prisoners taken at Corregidor did not experience that march, but 7,000 Americans and 5,000 Filipinos were packed for a week with no food on a concrete pavement 100 yards square. There was one water spigot for the 12,000 — the average wait to fill a canteen was 12 hours. They got their first food — a mess kit of rice and a can of sardines — after seven days. At Camp O’Donnell there were virtually no water facilities. Prisoners stood in line 6 to 10 hours to get a drink. Clothing went unchanged a month and a half. The principal food was rice, varied twice in two months with enough meat to give one-fourth of the men a piece an inch square. A few times there were comotes, a type of sweet potato, but many were rotten and the prisoners themselves had to post a guard to keep their starving comrades from devouring the rotten vegetables. There was an occasional dab of coconut lard, a little flour, a few mango beans. But there was a black market — those who had money could buy from the Japanese a small can of fish for $5.
No link for this one -- just my mother's memories of being a Dutch prisoner of the Japanese in Java during WWII. They got pig food at the beginning of the war; by the end, they were eating whatever plants they could find in the compound. My mother has always been grateful for Truman's decision to drop the atomic bomb. She was in the process of dying from starvation when the war abruptly ended, and could not have lasted had the war continued another week.

Britain staggers away into the sunset

Britain was such an admirable country during WWII, holding out alone against the Nazis, showing incredibly courage and moral strength. That Britain is no more. It's increasingly anti-Semitic and anti-American and now, it turns out, it's increasingly, disgustingly drunk:

Britain always has been a hard-drinking society, but in the past decade or so, the economics and demographics of drinking have undergone a dramatic transformation. 'In the postindustrial economy, large tracts of our city centers have been handed over to the control of the alcoholic drinks industry,' said Dick Hobbs, a professor of criminology at the University of Durham. 'We have created these boozing zones. We don't manufacture anything anymore, but we do serve a lot of drinks.'" *** "The pattern for British cities is intense shopping during the day, intense drinking at night," said Paul Rubinstein, director of arts and culture for the Newcastle City Council. A stunning new concert hall has put Newcastle on the European cultural map, and Rubinstein is quick to credit the city's busy night life for helping to revive the downtown economy. But now there are concerns that the drinking and partying are getting out of hand. "If you are not under age 25 and intent on being part of the drinking culture, you might feel a bit threatened," Rubinstein said. "You don't see many families or minorities on the streets after 8 p.m." In most European countries, per-capita alcohol consumption is declining. In Britain, it is rising sharply, especially among young people, who tend to binge drink. *** Binge drinking, generally defined as consuming five or more standard-sized drinks in one session, has become the norm for many young people. According to a recent study of 15- and 16-year-olds in Britain, 29 percent of the girls and 26 percent of the boys had engaged in binge drinking at least three times in the previous month. The link between alcohol and anti-social behavior in Britain is striking. According to recent government statistics, 78 percent of assaults and 88 percent of property damage crimes are directly related to alcohol. A 2003 government study indicated that about 40 percent of all emergency room admissions are alcohol-related. The study also calculated that Britain's economy loses 17 million working days to hangovers. For blue-collar and white-collar Britain, showing up for work with a ripping hangover does not carry the social stigma that it does in most societies. *** In Newcastle, where 336 pubs and clubs in the city center draw as many as 75,000 visitors on a busy night, Northumbria Police Chief Constable Mike Craik has launched a campaign to identify troublemakers and arrest them before the trouble begins. Billboards around the city warn "Get violent, get drunk, get disorderly--get locked up." Closed-circuit television cameras on the streets and inside drinking venues help police keep an eye on things. "As soon as you become offensive, we will be there, and we will arrest you before somebody gets in a fight," Craik said. "Two arrests get you banned from the city center." Before the campaign, police made about 600 arrests a month for alcohol-related offenses. In the first month of the campaign, the number doubled. *** Later this year, Britain will retire its Victorian-era licensing law that required pubs to close by 11 p.m. This will usher in a new era of round-the-clock drinking. The government blames the old law for pressuring people to squeeze in too much drinking before last call. It argues that 24-hour licensing will encourage people to spread out their consumption and imbibe in a more "European" manner. The alcoholic beverage industry thinks this is an excellent idea. Most medical and law-enforcement experts do not. "The entire research community is opposed to 24-hour licensing," the University of Durham's Hobbs said, "but the government has ignored every bit of evidence in its drive to bring its market-oriented policies to bear." Hobbs, paraphrasing an earlier Hobbes, said the English took their drink the same way they played soccer: "Crude, nasty, harsh and violent."
Since I have a residual fondness for England, having lived there in the past, and admiring very much most of it's history through 1945, I tend to enjoy modern British novels -- but the one thing that always puts me off about these books is how much the characters drink -- and get drunk, with the authors describing in excrutiating detail all the stupid acts they commit and all the horrible things their bodies experience. Of course, having read this article, I have a better idea why the authors include this material -- it's just a part of ordinary life in England. So sad....

It's laughter time

If you've been craving some humor in your day, check out this Jonah Goldberg column.

I miss the beloved Jew

If you're my age (mid-40s), or a little bit older, you'll remember a time when America was in love with all things Jewish. Popular culture was awash in hugely successful books, songs, and shows that reflected favorably on American Jewish culture. For example, when I was a kid, everyone read and quoted from Dan Greenberg's incredibly funny book, How to be a Jewish Mother. I had a friend who would just double over with laughter every time she thought of the appropriate Jewish mother response if she comes into the living room and finds her daughter necking on the couch with a boy: "Leave this house and don't come back until you're a virgin again." Another great (hugely) popular Jewish book of the 1960s was Leo Rosten's The Joys of Yiddish, a book that is a dictionary, a joke book, a cultural history, and a religious history book all rolled into one. (If you haven't read it yet, you should.) And do you remember Allan Sherman, the guy who became famous singing "Hello, Muddah; Hello, Faddah" and other ridiculous lyrics to familiar music? His records are still available, but in the 1960s they were a cultural phenomenom. I love his song about shopping the sales: "Jump down, turn around, pick a dress of cotton; Now jump down, turn around, pick a dress of wool. *** Here's what I've been praying for, a genuine copy of a fake Dior...." Certainly, no one needs to be reminded of what an enormous hit Fiddler on the Roof was: smash Broadway show, hit movie, and revival after revival. And speaking of revivals, I know it's on Broadway now, since I actually saw it last year (with the very good Alfred Molino starring in it; I have my doubts about Harvey Fierstein's ability to fill the role, but whatever). But can you imagine it opening as a first run show now? In the same world that lauds a show about Rachel Corrie? I certainly can't. So much of the entertainment world generally had a Jewish gloss. Tin Pan Alley, and Broadway, after all, were heavily Jewish (Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Richard Rogers, the Gershwin brothers, Moss Hart, George Kaufman, Lerner and Loewe, and on and on and on. Pop culture comes and goes, and I certainly don't mind -- indeed, I think it's a good thing -- that other cultures are getting their moment in the pop culture sun. What I do mind, dreadfully, is how hostile so much of the world is now to things Jewish. Rachel Corrie is a martyr, anti-Semitism is popping up all over, the United Church of Christ comes up with a ridiculous, ill-informed idea to boycott Israel (joining the Presbyterian Church USA's ridiculous boycott of Israel), and on and on and on. So I go back to my original point: in the face of increasing anti-Jewish, anti-Israeli, and anti-Semitic sentiments (all variations on a theme), I miss the time when the Jews were a beloved people, and their culture a thing to be enjoyed and admired. UPDATE: After I signed off of this post, I started thinking more about perceptions about Jews in the 1960s and 1970s, and remembered, too, that Israel was viewed so differently back then. Then, Israel was viewed as a plucky nation, made up of survivors from Pogroms, the Holocaust and refugee camps, that had bravely beaten back the nationalist Arab bully boys. Israel was David, to the Arab world's Goliath. Israel was also tremendously admired for turning a blighted desert into the land of milk and honey, for its successful socialist experiements (in the form of the Kibbutzim), and for its sponge-like ability to absorb Jews who were still being harassed and murdered in the Arab world. Now, of course, Israel is viewed as a capitalist occupier, a mini-USA, brutalizing its Third World, non-Jewish denizens. As my readers know, I fiercely disagree with this modern, Leftist perception. With this memory about perceptions of Israel in my youth, versus perceptions now, I also realized that the current malevolent Leftist viewpoint has been creeping around the periphery for a long time. Back in 1974/75, Ephraim Kishon, an Israeli humorist, wrote a very funny short story called "Unfair to Goliath" (contained in a book of the same name). I can't find my copy right now, but if I remember correctly, he used the David and Goliath analogy that was so frequently popping up then in reference to Israel, and blended it with the murmurings about how Israel somehow had an unfair advantage over those poor, massed, highly popular Arab nations that were perpetually attacking her. It's a funny story, but sadly prescient.

Politicians really need to learn a bit of history

If you follow Drudge, you'll know that Barak Obama has reservations about Lincoln's credentials on racially correct political thought. As Obama said, "Anyone who actually reads the Emancipation Proclamation knows it was more a military document than a clarion call for justice." At Betsy's Page, you'll find the perfect response:

Well, d'uh. Of course it was a military document. Lincoln made no bones about that. Lincoln firmly believed that he didn't have the Constitutional authority to free the slaves. He feared that if he did so by executive action or even through a bill in Congress then the Supreme Court, which a few years previously had ruled in the Dred Scott decision that Congress couldn't even legislate about slavery in the territories, would strike down any such emancipation. The cause of abolition would have been set back even further with such a Supreme Court decision. Remeber that Roger B. Taney, Chief Justice and author of the Dred Scott decision didn't die until 1864. The Emancipation Proclamation was initially issued in the Fall of 1862 and went into effect New Years Day, 1863. So Lincoln had a very legitimate Constitutional concern. Even back then, presidents had to worry about a contrary Supreme Court. What would happen to freed slaves after the War, if the Supreme Court had struck down such a non-military emancipation. Lincoln feared that they would be re-enslaved. So, how could he free the slaves? He decided that he could only do so using his authority as Commander in Chief. That is why it had to be a military decision. That is why he only freed the slaves in the territory that was still in rebellion rather than in the border states or in places where the Union army had already defeated the Confederates. His only legitimacy for emancipating the slaves lay in using the action to weaken those areas still fighting, not areas that had already surrendered or never seceded. Those who criticize Lincoln for not doing more to emancipate the slaves don't understand his very real Constitutional worries. So how did the Southern slaves get freed? By Union armies going into the South and defeating Confederate armies. There would have been no freedom for slaves without that military action. And Union success wouldn't have meant emancipation without Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. Finally, the 13th Amendment in December 1865 freed all the remaining slaves. And that would have been impossible without the Union victory which gave the Congress the stick to hold over the Southern states and force them to ratify the Amendment in order to come back into the Union. No Union victory, no emancipation. No Lincoln, no Union victory.
Betsy recommends a few good books for those who would like better to understand the situation in the Civil War era, and to appreciate (again) how extraordinary Lincoln's actions were. Hat tip: Suitable for Mixed Company

Monday, June 27, 2005

Picking up on a great book meme

Kathryn, at Suitable For Mixed Company, came up with a great meme, which seems to be sweeping the blogosphere. She was kind enough to tag me, but I've been so behind with things that only now am I taking a crack at it. Okay, let me admit the truth: I've actually been procrastinating on this one. As you'll see below, it's about books for high school students. My problem is that my reading tastes tend to materials written before 1950, and I doubt that the books I like would have much resonance for your average high schooler. Still, this is my meme, so I can create a high school student in my image, who would like the books I liked. So, here goes: "Imagine that a local philanthropist is hosting an event for local high school students and has asked you to pick out five to ten books to hand out as door prizes. At least one book should be funny and at least one book should provide some history of Western Civilization and at least one book should have some regional connection. The philanthropist doesn't like foul language (but will allow some four-letter words in context, such as expressed during battle by soldiers). Otherwise things are pretty wide open. What do you pick?" 1. One funny book. When I was a high schooler, one of the books that always made me laugh uproariously was Cheaper by the Dozen, by Frank Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. If you know of this book only through the scary bad movie of a couple of years ago, than you've been badly misled. The book, written by a brother and sister, recalls their childhood years in the early 20th Century. Their father was Frank Gilbreth, one of the first efficiency experts, and their mother was an engineer (an incredibly rare career for a woman at that time). Having decided to have 12 children, the couple applied Dad's efficiency ideas to child rearing, with often hilarious results. It's a great book, especially if your reading tastes pre-date the 1950s. 2. One history of Western Civilization book. My hands-down winner in this category is Max Dimont's book, Jews, God and History. The book takes one from pre-history through Herzl's Zionism, filtering Western world history through the Jews, and Jewish history through the history of the Western world. It's just a wonderful book, especially as it explains how interlinked the two histories how, and how strongly each affected the other. It was written in 1961, but is, to my mind, a timeless book. 3. One regional book. I can't think of a single book I've read, or would recommend, that falls in this category. 4. And all the other books I'd urge on high schoolers. I would urge on them all of Jane Austen's works, so that they could learn about manners and comedy; Louisa May Alcott's books, since they are warm, amusing morality tales; the Harry Potter books, which I think rightly deserve their growing place in the canon of modern classics; the Narnia books, which are wonderful religious allegory and morality works (as you may have gathered, moral lessons matter to me, especially when framed as rip-roaring good entertainment); and a little known book called Sarah, by Marguerite Harmon Bro, about a gifted young woman growing up in a small town in Minnesota before, during and after WWI (another strongly moral book). And now, taking a page out of Gail's book, rather than tagging specific people, I hereby tag anyone who's reading this post and wants to participate in this meme.

Truth and war

This from Done with Mirrors, following the comment that it would be a good thing to give the public a chance to hear more about the Downing Street Memos, so the public can draw its own conclusions:

In fact, browsing through history books convinces me that the Bush Administration's publicly stated goals at the beginning of the Iraq War remain much more consistent with the post-war reality than typically is the case. A quibble with the Mother Country over a petty tax of three pence a pound on tea becomes the birth of a nation. A boundary dispute with Mexico over a few square miles of Texas scrub becomes a land-grab of a third of a continent and keeps the valuable port of San Francisco from defaulting to British hands. A dispute with Germany over unrestricted submarine warfare becomes 'making the world safe for democracy.' The reverse also is true. What seems, after the fact, to be the great justification for a war turns out to be something that did not figure among the stated reasons for starting it. Study World War II today and you'll get a big unit on the Holocaust. How odd, then, to discover it played no part in the justification for the war at the time. Lincoln freed the slaves. But the American Civil War began as an constitutional chess match and an attempt to enforce U.S. authority in certain forts and arsenals, and to collect the tariff in Southern ports. Lincoln publicly disavowed any intention to free a single slave. By comparison, this was one of our more 'honest' wars.

Are you a conservative or a liberal?

John O, at Brain Droppings, has put together a really good summary of the differences between liberals and conservatives, quoting at length from Karl Rove's much maligned and misquoted speech about those differences, and then using Rove's words as a jumping off spot for further analysis and comment. I'd say it's a definite must-read if you want better insight into how your beliefs play into your political identity. Reading it, I am once against surprised that I managed to live so many years identifying myself as a liberal, since its clear that my values, for decades, have been conservative. It's sad that it took 9/11 to help me properly align my belief systems and my politics.

Richard Epstein explains just how bad the Kelo ruling really was

If you get the Wall Street Journal, check out this Richard Epstein article (available by subscription only, at least today), which goes into detail about, in Epstein's words, "why Kelo is truly horrible." It's worth quoting from the article's factual discussion, so you can discover on what a lamentably thin foundation Justice Stevens built his "public benefit" argument, one that goes far beyond the "public use" phrase found in the Constitution:

To understand why Kelo is truly horrible, it is necessary to look both at Kelo and the constitutional logic of public use requirement. On the former, the declining economic fortunes of New London spurred the city elders to embark on a general urban development plan, underwritten by $73 million in state money devoted to general planning, physical infrastructure and environmental cleanup. The plan lacked only one ingredient -- some real live developer prepared to risk his own capital to build any office or hotel on part of the 90 or so acres the City already had. Not content with its overheated vision, New London's plan envisioned taking down about 15 old homes overlooking Long Island Sound, to be used for some unidentified form of "park support." Fancy new private homes were not listed on the plan. None of the endless frustration and delays in implementing its grand plan were attributable to the decision of some landowners to fight New London. Quite simply, the slow rate of development made obsolete some of the original projects, such as a luxury hotel to support a new nearby Pfizer facility. Pfizer could not wait 10 years to house its visiting dignitaries. One obvious compromise position, therefore, should have appealed even to the five member majority on the Supreme Court: to force the City to postpone the condemnation of these private homes until the City revealed its hand.
The Kelo decision, when one really understands this facts, is just a sickening example of government overreach, and of a blind faith in procedure to the exclusion of all justice.

Propaganda on the airwaves

There's more to Debbie Schlussel's article about a propagandistic documentary, but this first half alone certainly makes the point:

Morgan Spurlock got famous from his Oscar-nominated documentary, "Supersize Me." He ingested supersized McDonald's meals three times a day for thirty days, then blamed McDonald's for his changed physique and health. Now, he's using his thirty-day premise to get Americans to ingest his bloated version of radical Islam on cable's F/X Network. Last year, I received a request to appear in Spurlock's new reality show, "30 Days." The six-episode series began Wednesday Night. The episode for which I was being recruited, "Inside an American Muslim Family," airs next Wednesday. It features Spurlock's childhood friend from West Virginia, David Stacy, spending thirty days "living as a Muslim" in the Detroit area. While he is often referred to as a "journalist," and Spurlock touts "30 Days" as a "documentary," the outcome of the show was already decided before production began. A show summary sent to me before taping began said, "This process aims to deconstruct common misconceptions and stereotypes . . . . [O]ur character will learn firsthand about Islam and the daily issues that . . . Muslims in America face today. The viewers will witness our character emerge from the immersion situation with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the Muslim-American experience. . . . The potential is great for this program to enlighten a national television audience about the Muslim American experience and increase their compassion, understanding and support." I asked the show's executive producers--all of whom worked for Michael Moore--how this could be a documentary when they'd already decided the outcome. Wasn't it possible, I asked, that the subject of the program, Stacy, would come out seeing that there isn't Islamophobia to the extent that the Muslim community claims? Might Stacy see that there is disturbingly strong support in the Detroit area Islamic community for terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah--a fact regularly documented in the normally pliant Detroit media? No, producers told me. "Morgan wants the show to demonstrate to America that we are Islamophobic and that 9/11's biggest victims are Muslims." With this in mind, I agreed to be filmed only with final approval of my appearance, which I never gave. When I met David Stacy, I was amazed at how ignorant and uninformed he was. This newly-inducted "expert" on Islam never heard of Wahhabism--the extremist Sunni strain of Islam that now dominates the religion. He was unfamiliar with terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. He did not believe me that Hezbollah murdered hundreds of U.S. Marines and civilians in Beirut and elsewhere. He seemed mystified to learn that President Bush shut down American Islamic charities, like the Holy Land Foundation and Global Relief Foundation, for funding Hamas and Al Qaeda. He hadn't a clue about taqiyyah, the Koranic principle allowing deception of non-Muslims. He told me and a Detroit radio show that Muslims are no more representative of Qaeda and Hamas than Timothy McVeigh is representative of Christianity. Actually, McVeigh was an atheist.

End of an era

Sad news -- two great voices are gone:

'Twas a sad weekend in Hundred Acre Wood. Paul Winchell, the early TV pioneer best remembered for creating a string of cartoon voices, most famously Winnie the Pooh's pal Tigger, died Friday. A day later, John Fiedler, the veteran stage and screen actor who voiced Piglet, passed away. Somewhere Eeyore is even more glum than usual. Winchell and Fiedler gave voice to the beloved characters in several animated Disney shorts and features, beginning with 1968's Oscar-winning, franchise-launching short, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, which also featured the vocal work of Sebastian Cabot as the narrator and Sterling Holloway as the honey-obsessed bear. (Cabot died in 1977; Holloway in 1992.)
I happen to be impressed by voice actors. I'm a huge Mel Blanc fan, and also think Hank Azaria is a wonderful talent. I've rather consistently enjoyed watching the old (1960s) Winnie the Pooh movies with my kids because Winchell's and Fiedler's vocal characterizations are so good.

Blogging is the future!

Take the MIT Weblog Survey Click on the link, and you can too. H/T: PalmTree Pundit

A strong flag can stand being burned

I noted here that I think the proposed anti-flag burning Amendment is a bad idea, and mere political grandstanding. Trust Mark Steyn to say it better, and to give the argument against the proposed amendment a wider, and more important context. Read the whole article, of course, but this will give you an idea:

For my own part, I believe that, if someone wishes to burn a flag, he should be free to do so. In the same way, if Democrat senators want to make speeches comparing the U.S. military to Nazis and the Khmer Rouge, they should be free to do so. It's always useful to know what people really believe. *** One of the big lessons of these last four years is that many, many beneficiaries of Western civilization loathe that civilization — and the media are generally inclined to blur the extent of that loathing. At last year's Democratic Convention, when the Oscar-winning crockumentarian Michael Moore was given the seat of honor in the presidential box next to Jimmy Carter, I wonder how many TV viewers knew that the terrorist ''insurgents'' — the guys who kidnap and murder aid workers, hack the heads off foreigners, load Down's syndrome youths up with explosives and send them off to detonate in shopping markets — are regarded by Moore as Iraq's Minutemen. I wonder how many viewers knew that on Sept. 11 itself Moore's only gripe was that the terrorists had targeted New York and Washington instead of Texas or Mississippi: ''They did not deserve to die. If someone did this to get back at Bush, then they did so by killing thousands of people who DID NOT VOTE for him! Boston, New York, D.C. and the plane's destination of California — these were places that voted AGAINST Bush!" In other words, if the objection to flag desecration is that it's distasteful, tough. Like those apocryphal Victorian matrons who discreetly covered the curved legs of their pianos, the culture already goes to astonishing lengths to veil the excesses of those who are admirably straightforward in their hostility. *** A flag has to be worth torching. When a flag gets burned, that's not a sign of its weakness but of its strength. If you can't stand the heat of your burning flag, get out of the superpower business. It's the left that believes the state can regulate everyone into thought-compliance. The right should understand that the battle of ideas is won out in the open.

The "I hate religion" side of America

In an article that starts with a bang, and then just keeps getting better, Suzanne Fields takes on the increasing hostility to religion expressed in certain areas of America, and ends (correctly) by identifying school vouchers as an important civil rights issue. I urge you to read the whole thing, but I'll whet your appetite with some quotes:

The debate over freedom of religion has turned into a debate over freedom from religion. Religious men and women founded America, and for centuries, religious faith was considered by nearly everyone to be a key to good citizenship. The Founding Fathers would not allow religion to govern the state, but they appreciated the way religion governed the private lives of good citizens. *** In the 1960s, American identity was conspicuously tied up with religious faith, but as an impulse to do good rather than propagate dogma. The civil rights movement, midwifed by the black church, was borne on the wings of the religious rhetoric of Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist preacher. Rabbis and priests united behind his message. The idea prevailed that politics was separated from religion, but religion and politics nevertheless shaped American social values together, challenging licentiousness dangerous to the state and appealing to a higher ideal to make the country a better place for everyone. That's why it's particularly alarming that slurs and innuendo are used against religious people today. No matter how Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, tries to wiggle out of the implications of his remark that the Republican Party is made up of "white Christians," he expected his remarks to inspire Democrats to contribute money to a party willing to shun white Christians, though it's odd that any politician would knock whites and Christians, who comprise the majority of voters. Ken Mehlman, the Republican national chairman, hit him where he hurt with his remark that if the Republicans are all white Christians, "a lot of folks who attended my bar mitzvah would be surprised."
As I said, it's good, and worth reading in its entirety.

More on the United Church of Christ's anti-Israel resolution

I posted earlier about steps you can take to protest the United Church of Christ's attack against Israel. A friend of mine sent the following letter to the leadership at the United Church of Christ:

Dear leaders of United Church of Christ, In the name of Christ it is imperative that you do not punish and stigmatize Israel for trying to survive. Israel is surrounded by neighbors who seek to wipe it off the face of the earth. Iran has recently threatened to destroy Israel with a nuclear bomb. Other neighbors, such as Syria, Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq have attacked Israel numerous times since her birth- with the goal of eradication of the Jewish state. Even today, these neighbors enjoy horrendous human rights records and their media are full of the most vicious and reprehensible anti-Semitic propaganda. See for direct translations from the Arab media. I encourage you to check out the political cartoons. Israel's Palestinian neighbors have legitimate grievances - that still does not justify blowing up huge numbers of Israeli civilians as they go about the actions of daily life. Only this past month on PA sponsored television a clergy referred to Jews as "monkeys and pigs" and urged the murder of Jews. (See transcripts at To boycott Israel and to not take into account this kind of hate, and the idealization of the suicide bomber is grossly unfair, even uninformed. Moreover, if you boycott Israel I suggest you also boycott China for its brutal occupation of Tibet, suppression of native religion, and its deplorable human rights record. You should also boycott India for keeping the "untouchable" caste as unprotected and discriminated against internal apartheid victims. It is time to boycott Russia for its very violent suppression of Chechen separatists. You should also consider boycotting countries that routinely employ torture and summary arrest. That would include nearly all the Islamic world and dozens of other countries as well. None of these countries are surrounded by neighbors who seek to wipe their country off the face of the earth because its an insult for dhimmi to have a state in "moslem" land. There are countless severe crimes committed by governments all over the world. You turn a blind eye to those and condemn only Israel. Why?

Help prevent another unreasonable attack against Israel's right to protect herself

I received the following message today in an email from the Simon Wiesenthal Center. If you believe, as I do, that Israel is the world's scapegoat, a stable democracy that takes the heat for the world's dictatorships, please follow the links on this post, and have your voice heard. Thank you.

On July 1, 2005, the United Church of Christ (UCC), founded in 1957 as the union of several Christian traditions, convenes its General Synod, in Atlanta, Georgia. On the agenda are resolutions calling for the dismantling of Israel’s security barrier, and divestment from companies doing business with Israel. This comes at a time when Israel is removing all Jewish settlements from Gaza, when she has released 900-plus Palestinians held for abetting terrorism, and as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meet face-to-face in pursuit of an equitable peace. The Wiesenthal Center has directly urged the head of the UCC to defeat these unfair and dangerous initiatives. We have also asked United States Congressmen who are members of the UCC to raise their voices against these resolutions. And, finally, we have asked that we be allowed to address the conclave directly to ensure that the voice of the victims of Palestinian terrorism are heard. To date, the Church has been silent to our pleas. We need your help today! Please join our protest to UCC head Rev. John H. Thomas and other leaders of the UCC to work to defeat these resolutions which will work against the cause of peace, damage relations between Jews and the UCC, and embolden extremists who want to destroy Israel and who threaten the safety and security of Jews around the world. By acting now, you will be among the first 25,000 protests that we must generate in the few days before the General Synod convenes this Friday! Recently, when another Protestant denomination considered similar resolutions against Israel, Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, had this to say, "Israelis are already traumatised and feel that the world is against them. This proposal, if it is agreed, would be another knife in the back. Christians who owe so much to the Hebrew Scriptures and to Israel itself should not be among those who attack Israel in such a way." Since the Holocaust, Jews have appreciated the attempts of many church groups including the UCC to promote cooperation and good will. But the passing of resolutions so arrogantly oblivious to the safety and future of Israel's civilian population will result in inestimable damage to the relationship between our communities. Please follow this link to sign the protest to The Rev. John H. Thomas right now! And, please use this link to forward this to your friends, family, and colleagues immediately.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Blog break

Off for the weekend. Blogging will resume Sunday night.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Misogyny in the Middle East

Fjordman, a blogger from Norway has been tracking Islam. One of his recent posts takes on the homicidal misogyny that characterizes so much of Arab culture:

Maher Shakirat summoned three of his sisters to discuss a family uproar after one of them, Rudaina, was thrown out by her husband for an alleged affair. Then he forced the three women to drink bleach before strangling Rudaina. The other sisters tried to flee but Maher caught and strangled Amani, 20. The third, Leila, escaped but was badly injured by the bleach. The murders were the latest in a series of brutal 'honour killings' that have shaken the Palestinian community over recent weeks. The deaths have prompted demands for a change to laws that deem all women to be 'minors' under the authority of male relatives. But those calls have met with resistance in parliament where religious Palestinian MPs argue that reform will lead to a collapse in the moral fabric of society. 'Men feel they have lost their dignity and that they can somehow restore it by upholding the family's honour. We've noticed recent cases are much more violent in nature; attempts to kill, rape, incest. There is an incredible amount of incest.' Amira Abu Hanhan Qaoud murdered her daughter, Rafayda, because she became pregnant after being raped by two of her brothers. 'My daughter fell over and broke her knee. I took her to hospital and there the doctor told me she was pregnant. So I killed her. It's as simple as that,' said Mrs Qaoud on her doorstep in Ramallah. Mrs Qaoud waited until the baby was born and given up for adoption. Then she presented her 22 year-old daughter with a razor blade and told her to slash her wrists. She refused so her mother pulled a plastic bag over her head, sliced her wrists and beat her head with a stick.
Hat tip: Flopping Aces

Winning against guerillas

What does it take to win a war against a guerilla force? To those who say the war isn't won until every guerilla is defeated (and by implication that we'll never win in Iraq), Wretchard, at the Belmont Club has many arguments, my favorite of which is:

What does it mean to win a war against guerilla insurgents? What does it mean for a guerilla insurgency to triumph? The one answer that is popularly advanced -- one that is implicit in Scoblete's argument -- is that guerillas win if they simply remain in existence. This site lists more than 383 armed guerilla groups extant in the world today. Clearly all of them exist and just clearly not all of them are triumphant. There are, for instance 27 armed guerilla groups in India, 9 in Britain (the most famous of which is the Irish Republican Army) and 11 in the United States. Yet no one asks whether it is premature to declare the Westminster Parliament in control of the Northern Ireland or wonder whether Los Matcheteros will take over the Washington DC. And the reason is simple: while the IRA and Los Matcheteros are still likely to exist in 2010, there is little or no chance that these organizations will seize state power in all or even part of Britain or the United States. Seizing state power over a definite territory is the explicit objective of nearly every guerilla armed force in the world today: if they can achieve that, they win. If they cannot achieve that and have no realistic prospect of ever achieving that, they are defeated, however long they may continue to exist.

Big brother is taking from you -- or the tax and spend Demos at the Court

I've been carefully reading the decision in Kelo v. City of New London, which Justice Stevens authored, and have been spitting and sputtering. I've got little marginal notes all over my copy about the difference between previous takings that the Court authorized, which tended to envision a concrete, immediate benefit (freeways, railways, industrial access), as opposed to the current, hypothetical "maybe the economy will improve" scenario. Even in those situations where the Supreme Court authorized blatant redistribution of wealth, the benefit was immediate. The most obvious example of the latter situation is a case on which Justice Stevens relies heavily, Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff, 467 U.S. 229 (1984). In that case, Hawaii enacted a statute under which the legislature said that landlowners would be forced to transfer title to their tenants (for a price) whether or not they wanted to. Even the normally insane Ninth Circuit baulked at this one. It characterized this as "a naked attempt on the part of the state of Hawaii to take the property of A and transfer it to B solely for B's private use and benefit." The Supreme Court, though, took the social engineering bit in its teeth and ran with it. It stated that case that it was perfectly acceptable for the State to eliminate the "social and economic evils of a land oligopoly." (Hawaii Housing Authority, 467 U.S. at 241-242.) Even in that extreme case, though, the envisioned benefit was instantaneous -- the oligopoly was broken, and the public good was presumably benefitted as of that minute. What distinguishes the current case is the tentativeness of it all. In the very first sentence, Justice Stevens notes that there is no immediate or obvious benefit to be derived from dispossessing the homeowners (one of whom has lived in her home since 1918): "In 2000, the city of New London approved a development plan that, in the words of the Supreme Court of Connecticut, was 'projected to create in excess of 1,000 jobs, to increase tax and other revenues, and to revitalize an economically distressed city....'" (Emphasis mine.) And again, in writing of the plan that led to the eminent domain seizure, Justice Stevens notes that the planners "intended the development plan to capitalize on the arrival of the Pfizer facility and the new commernce it was expected to attract." (Emphasis mine.) To dispossess people based on the remote possibility that some money might come down the government pikeway in the future, in the form of increased taxes, strikes me as almost immoral. As the Petitioners put it in their (unfortunately unsuccessful) brief:

Petitioners advocate a bright-line rule that the possible increase in taxes and jobs does not qualify as a public use. If, however, this Court finds that economic development can qualify as a public use, it should still reject these condemnations. Respondents seek to take Petitioners' homes for an office building that will not be built in the foreseeable future, if ever, and for some other, unidentified use. With no reasonably foreseeable use and no standards to ensure that "economic development" will ever result from these condemnations, Respondents seek to remove Petitioners from their homes on the assumption that someone will figure out what to do with the property later. Economic development condemnations bring enormous social costs and significant constitutional risk. At the very least, there must be a reasonable certain of realization of the "public" benefits used to justify the takings in the first place. Here, there is no such reasonable certainty.
Justice Stevens swats off these concerns with the back of his hand using nonresponsive gobbledy-gook to show his confidence that Big Brother government -- which has never shown any financial savvy in the past, in this country or in others (witness the European economies) -- knows what is best:
Orderly implementation of a comprehensive redevelopment plan obviously requires that the legal rights of all interested parties be established before new construction can be commenced. A constitutional rule that required postponement of the judicial approval of every condemnation until the likelihood of success of the plan had been assured would unquestionably impose a significant impediment to the successful consummation of many such plans.
Sounds good, doesn't it? But think about the difference between a freeway that will definitely be built, so it's a pretty damn sure thing, and a good economic bet even for a government to take, and the possibility that an office park might, at some point in the future, be built, and that it might bring in business and profits that could possibly increase the community's tax base. What kind of standard is that? I leave the last words to Justice O'Connor, who opens her dissent as follows:
Over two centuries ago, just after the Bill of Rights was ratified, Justice Chase wrote: 'An ACT of the Legislature (for I cannot call it a law) contrary to the great first principles of the social compact, cannot be considered a rightful exercise of legislative authority . . . . A few instances will suffice to explain what I mean . . . . [A] law that takes property from A. and gives it to B: It is against all reason and justice, for a people to entrust a Legislature with SUCH powers; and, therefore, it cannot be presumed that they have done it.' Calder v. Bull, 3 Dall. 386, 388 (1798) (emphasis deleted). Today the Court abandons this long-held, basic limitation on government power. Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded -- i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public -- in the process. To reason, as the Court does, that the incidental public benefits resulting from the subsequent ordinary use of private property render economic development takings 'for public use' is to wash out any distinction between private and public use of property -- and thereby effectively to delete the words 'for public use' from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Accordingly I respectfully dissent.

The new anti-Semites -- in Congress

I've already blogged a bit about the disgraceful anti-Semitic display that went unchecked at a mock impeachment in Congress, as well as about the Left's general embrace of classic anti-Semitism. Eric Fettman now fills in the blanks about the Congressional show, and tells the whole disgraceful story. If you'd like to see where a significant part of the Democratic party is going, take the time to check his column out.

Draw your own conclusions

Here's the first verse and chorus from Cole Porter's song Just one of those things

It was just one of those things, just one of those crazy flings. One of those bells that now and then rings, just one of those things. It was just one of those nights, just one of those fabulous flights. A trip to the moon on gossamer wings, just one of those things. If we´d thought of it, ´bout the end of it, when we started painting the town, We´d have been aware that our love affair was too hot not to cool down. So goodbye, dear, and Amen, here´s hoping we´ll meet now and then. It was great fun but it was just one of those things.
These are the lyrics from the first verse and chorus of one of Christine Aguilera's songs (Love for All Seasons):
Hey there boy did ya happen to know Wherever you go I'll follow Ooh babe you're like a cool breeze On a summer day When you're near me I don't know what to do I feel like a fool Like a school girl True blue girl Who wants to know Can you come out and play You make me feel the way A woman is supposed to feel Let me show you Show you that my love's for real Chorus: I'll be the rain in your summer The chill in your fall I'll be watcha want Anything at all I've got a love for all seasons A love for all time I'll be the fire in your winter The sun in your spring I'll do what you want Give ya everything I've got a love for all seasons A love for all time
Maybe we really were subjecting the Gitmo detainees to cruel and unusual punishment when making them listen to that pap.

One step closer to big brother government

Just out:

A divided Supreme Court ruled Thursday that local governments may seize people's homes and businesses against their will for private development in a decision anxiously awaited in communities where economic growth often is at war with individual property rights. The 5-4 ruling — assailed by dissenting Justice Sandra Day O'Connor as handing "disproportionate influence and power" to the well-heeled in America — was a defeat for Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. They had argued that cities have no right to take their land except for projects with a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to revitalize blighted areas. As a result, cities now have wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes in order to generate tax revenue. The case was one of six resolved by justices on Thursday. Among those still pending for the court, which next meets on Monday, is one testing the constitutionality of displaying the Ten Commands on government property. Writing for the court's majority in Thursday's ruling, Justice John Paul Stevens said local officials, not federal judges, know best in deciding whether a development project will benefit the community. States are within their rights to pass additional laws restricting condemnations if residents are overly burdened, he said. "The city has carefully formulated an economic development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including — but by no means limited to — new jobs and increased tax revenue," Stevens wrote. Stevens was joined in his opinion by other members of the court's liberal wing — David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer. The bloc typically has favored greater deference to cities, which historically have used the takings power for urban renewal projects that benefit the lower and middle class. They were joined by Reagan appointee Justice Anthony Kennedy in rejecting the conservative principle of individual property rights. Critics had feared that would allow a small group of homeowners to stymie rebuilding efforts that benefit the city through added jobs and more tax revenue for social programs. "It is not for the courts to oversee the choice of the boundary line nor to sit in review on the size of a particular project area," Stevens wrote. O'Connor argued that cities should not have unlimited authority to uproot families, even if they are provided compensation, simply to accommodate wealthy developers.
I've been aware of this Kelo matter for a while, and know that it's been painted as a rich versus poor scenario. I never believed it to be such, and the way in which the decision played out shows that my sense about this was correct. If it had been rich developers versus poor homeowners, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer would have sided with the poor homeowners against the evil rich developers. What this case is really about is limited versus unlimited government power. In this regard, it's entirely logical for Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer to side with a civic government that promises that it has just a marvelous idea to make the City better. The thing is that we know, from example, after example, after example, that politicians who meddle in economic development usually get it wrong. If people want to develop because the market makes it worth their while, well, that's just great. But when the government gets behind the effort, it bogs down into corruption and ineffectiveness. Sor I'm not surprised by how this case played out, but I am disgusted, because I believe that our governments, Federal, State and local already have more than enough power to make social and economic mischief, without having this blank check handed to them.

What he said!

Here's Steve, pointing out what I think is a waste of political capital:

In national news, the House of Representatives passed an Anti-Flag burning bill with a vote of 286-130. You remember flag burning, that issue that has enflamed so many Americans recently, enough that we must galvanize the government to push through this proposed Amendment. I like what the folks at the moderate voice had to say about this, as well as their quotes by Citizen Smash. Real quickly, they abhor flag burning (so do I) think it's quite distasteful (as do I), but they also disapprove of a flag-burning amendment. The Moderate Voice looks at this as nothing short of partisan politics, a group trying to find an issue they can rally around and cause a stir over - is it free speech, or is it a desecration of an American Symbol? I can't help but agree with that synopsis. I'd not heard much in the news since about this in several years, and can't think of any good reason to bring it up now when there are so many other issues that can and should be handled first. I'm not really the best one to bring clear issue to this, so I recommend reading the moderate voice's post.
To which I'll add my comment to Steve's post: I'm with you on this one, Steve. If you'll pardon the pun, this is not one of the burning issues of our time, nor is it something I think should clutter our Constitution. One of the great strengths of our Constitution -- as opposed to the 300+ pages of detailed drek spouted in the proposed EU constitution -- is its brevity. It is a useful, living document precisely because it does not get bogged down in the details of day to day life in America but, instead, hews more to broad principles. And flag burning, while distasteful, is not a broad principle. UPDATE: I'm wondering to which constituency the Republican congresspeople who passed this proposed amendment are pandering. Those in the blogosphere whom I regularly visit are united in believing this is a bad day's work. See, for example: Brain droppings The Anchoress CDR Salamander Chrenkoff Little Green Footballs

Dishonest arguments

My sense about stem cell research is that there is a lot of really important science there, and an equal amount of politically motivated hucksterism. I therefore appreciated Bush's decision to slow things down a bit and, as a California taxpayer, am less than thrilled about the $3 billion dollar bite on us that California taxpayers agreed to. In other words, I'm wishy-washy. What I do feel strongly about, though, is honest debate. If that's what you like too, you might enjoy Wesley Smith's Weekly Standard artice. In it, he challenges the false factual assertions Mario Cuomo makes in a New York Times Op-Ed attacking Bush for his stem cell policies.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


This may explain 1950s productivity:

Married men earn more than bachelors so long as their wives stay at home doing the housework, according to a report Wednesday from Britain's Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER). Academics Elena Bardasi and Mark Taylor found that a married man whose wife does not go out to work but is primarily responsible for the cooking and cleaning earns about 3 percent more than comparably employed single men. But that wage premium disappears if wives go out to work themselves or don't do most of the housework. 'It has been fairly well documented that married men earn more than single men,' Taylor, a labor economist, told Reuters. 'However, our research established the wage premium is related to the wife doing the chores,' said the academic who teaches at the University of Essex in eastern England. He said analysis suggests there could be two explanations for the results: A marriage might allow a husband and wife to focus their activities on tasks to which they are most suited. Traditionally, this would result in the man concentrating on paid work enabling him to increase productivity and in consequence his wages. Taylor said another explanation could be that marriage may increase the amount of time a man has to hone work-related skills which could trigger higher wages.

Whither women in the war?

Kathleen Parker makes an excellent point about the extremely weird roles American women are being used for in this war against a violently misogynistic culture:

Various reports out of Gitmo suggest a consistent pattern of X-rated behavior by women toward men. (For a list taken from documents recently released to the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act, go to Even if such behavior weren't offensive to the Muslim world we're trying to charm with our democratic ways, it should be condemned by us. Instead, it is apparently a policy, if unspoken, to use women in ways we never would condone in civilian life and that certainly would get men punished if roles were reversed. The MO even has a name: the 'sex-up' approach. Pithy. In some instances, (civilian) women interrogators at Gitmo partially stripped, and fondled themselves and the male prisoners, who sometimes were forced to strip in front of women. In one particularly loathsome example related by a former U.S. Army linguist, Sgt. Erik Saar, during a '60 Minutes' interview, a female interrogator put her hands in her pants, where she had hidden red ink. She then wiped her reddened hands on the detainee's face, telling him it was menstrual blood. Again, this clearly doesn't qualify as 'torture' compared to electric shock and beatings, but it's still wrong as ballet boots. And even though this particular prisoner was especially worrisome -- a Saudi training at an American flight school -- employing a woman to perform some elaborate misogynistic kabuki seems not so much torturous as depraved. The war on terror, which is also a battle of perception, is daunting enough without our handing ammo to the enemy.
I do not ascribe to the "treat these battle-hardened Muslim warriors with more respect than we show American prisoners in American prisons" viewpoint, but I think there's something profoundly wrong -- and sexist -- about the way women are being used in this war. They are not being used as comrades and soldiers; they're being used as sex objects, in the worst and most demeaning way, and it doesn't matter that their sex is being used against the enemy.

In a nutshell

Here's Kathleen Parker

By now we can concede that America's prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is not a torture-driven gulag and that Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is at risk of implosion by hyperbole. And we can thank insurgents for providing that perspective. The discovery a few days ago of a torture house in Iraq that included electrical wires, a noose, handcuffs and four badly beaten Iraqis provided a timely reminder of what torture is -- physical brutality toward a human being. And what it is not -- bad manners toward a book. Even a sacred one.

Oh, life is so unfair....

There's more and it's good, but I just loved this beginning of a John Stossel column because it shows the Left's absolute inability to believe that most people will behave rationally when it comes to economics:

Feminists keep demanding new laws to protect women from the so-called wage gap. Many studies have found that women make about 75 cents for every dollar a man earns. Activists say the pay difference is all about sexism. 'No matter how hard women work, or whatever they achieve in terms of advancement in their own professions and degrees, they will not be compensated equitably!' shouted Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., at a 'wage equity' rally in Washington, D.C. But how could this be possible? Suppose you're an employer doing the hiring. If a woman does equal work for 25 percent less money, businesses would get rich just by hiring women. Why would any employer ever hire a man? Martha Burk, chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations, gave me this simple answer: 'Because they like to hire men, John. They like to hire people like themselves and they darn sure like to promote people like themselves.' In other words, men so love their fellow men that they are willing to pay a premium of, say, $10,000 on what would otherwise be a $30,000-a-year job, just for the sheer pleasure of employing a man. Nonsense. It's market competition that sets wages.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Worshipping amoral nature

Dennis Prager's column today was really interesting, insofar as it discussed the difference between Judeo-Christian thought and nature worship. After describing how the Bible, for the first time, envisioned a God separate from and greater than nature, he goes on to discuss the problems with the elevation of nature that we see so often today:

Major elements in secular Western society are returning to a form of nature worship. Animals are elevated to equality with people, and the natural environment is increasingly regarded as sacred. The most extreme expressions of nature worship actually view human beings as essentially blights on nature. Even among some who consider themselves religious, and especially among those who consider themselves 'spiritual' rather than religious, nature is regarded as divine, and G-d is deemed as dwelling within it. It is quite understandable that people who rely on feelings more than reason to form their spiritual beliefs would deify nature. It is easier — indeed more natural — to worship natural beauty than an invisible and morally demanding G-d. What is puzzling is that many people who claim to rely more on reason would do so. Nature is unworthy of worship. Nature, after all, is always amoral and usually cruel. Nature has no moral laws, only the amoral law of survival of the fittest. Why would people who value compassion, kindness or justice venerate nature? The notions of justice and caring for the weak are unique to humanity. In the rest of nature, the weak are to be killed. The individual means nothing in nature; the individual is everything to humans. A hospital, for example, is a profoundly unnatural, indeed antinatural, creation; to expend precious resources on keeping the most frail alive is simply against nature. The romanticizing of nature, let alone the ascribing of divinity to it, involves ignoring what really happens in nature. I doubt that those American schoolchildren who conducted a campaign on behalf of freeing a killer whale (the whale in the film "Free Willy") ever saw films of actual killer whale behavior. There are National Geographic videos that show, among other things, killer whales tossing a terrified baby seal back and forth before finally killing it. Perhaps American schoolchildren should see those films and then petition killer whales not to treat baby seals sadistically. If you care about good and evil, you cannot worship nature. And since that is what G-d most cares about, nature worship is antithetical to Judeo-Christian values.
I remember when my children were little, they exclaimed that lions were bad, because they killed people. And I struggled to explain that lions are lions, and that's why they kill. Good and bad only apply to those with the capacity to reason. A person who kills another person, is bad; a lion that kills another animal (even another lion), is just a lion, since he lacks moral insight. Strangely enough, my kids seemed to accept my inarticulate statements, and they do appear to be suspicious of attempts to humanize animals (and they do love animals).