The Therapy Sessions
Friday, May 30, 2003
The Philadelphia Inquirer compiles a list of interesting destinations on the web. No blogs are mentioned, not even Instapundit (big papers have a bias against them). But the Inquirer directs readers to alternet.org, where Naomi Klein whines about the fact that America has "forgotten" the sacrifice of Rachel Corrie. Corrie gave her life defending a Palestinian arms-smuggling tunnel from an Israeli bulldozer.
Why would America have forgotten her? Here is Corrie ripping up an American flag in front of an Arab crowd (photo courtesy of Little Green Footballs).
Americans are so judgmental.
The Bush administration will be providing funds to strengthen the age-weakened structure of the Old North Church in Boston, the site from which lanterns were hung signaling Paul Revere that the British were advancing.
NPR is appalled that the Bush administration would help rebuild the church, because it violates a Clinton-era policy that no federal funds would ever go to a religious institution. Americans United for the Separation of Church and State is completely incensed. After all, religious services are still held there! Eeek!
Presumably, they would rather see the church fall apart than violate policy.
I predict that Bush will make at least one campaign stop at the Old North Church. At some point, he will sit alone in the pews, his hands folded, praying to God. Please God, he will say, please let the Democrats make an issue out of this!
It is an unbeatable opportunity for the Democrats to be excessively legalistic, unpatriotic and anti-religion – all at the same time! A win-win-win situation! But none of those things matter, the Democrats will say in their defense: it’s the principle that matters.
Attitudes like that play well in the South and Midwest – regions that the Democrats are counting on to win the presidency in 2004.
Thursday, May 29, 2003
It didn’t take long.
According to the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto (Best of the Web, May 21st), Jayson Blair, former reporter for the New York Times, suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder (or DID, as its known on the street).
It is so fitting. We live in an age where we give Prozac to our dogs. You aren’t depressed because you are a lonely alcoholic; you’d be perfectly happy with a few pills. Children aren’t brats. They suffer from ADHD. They need drugs, not discipline.
These diseases may or may not be real; they may have some basis in biology or none at all. I don’t really care. What bothers me is that they all excuse individual behavior. No one is responsible for anything they do.
It fits with the socialist conceit: people are cogs in a machine they cannot control, and they cannot be trusted with their own freedom. Such people need a large, protective government, ensuring that their personal choices are controlled. They are not to be trusted with dangerous things – like cigarettes, alcohol, fatty food or guns.
I think that when liberals decided that personal responsibility was an outdated concept, they jumped from the election winning strategies of JFK to the buffoonery of Teddy. As long as they shack up with that clown, they will lose elections.
And they know it. So they have gone to the courts to overrule the will of the people.
That is the scary part.
Wednesday, May 28, 2003
In a New York Times Op-ed, Bob Herbert decries the lack of diversity in American newsrooms, and he has this advice to young black reporters who believe they are being neglected as a result of racism:
“The correct response is to strike back--as hard and as often as it takes.”
The problem is that young reporters (or young people in any profession) always – at some time – feel neglected, taken advantage of, or ignored. Advice like Herbert gives – assume racism and strike back – makes them even less attractive as employees. Just what any department needs: an employee who knows his job better than his boss and screams racism whenever his boss corrects him.
Jayson Blair was put in a position where he could not possibly do well. Blair – a college dropout with some experience working for his college paper - was competing with Macarena Hernandez, a gifted writer who had a Master’s from Berkeley and several internships at large city papers on her resume.
It was certainly obvious to him that race was the only reason he was there. He had to legitimize himself, to make others think that he was just as gifted as the others.
So he lied to give his stories an extra zing. And for a time, it worked.
Some people get upset when affirmative action is brought up here. But this story is playing itself out all of the time. A black who would do well in biology at the University of Arizona instead finds himself at Yale as a pre-med, where he can’t possibly compete. He either drops out, or he majors in some fictional discipline, like African-American studies.
Nearly two-thirds of black college students never get their degrees.
Is it any wonder that this dropout rate is so high?
Afirmative Action takes the most promising people that black America has to offer, and it turns them into sullen, whiny nothings - like Jayson Blair.
Love those experts.
Experts today believe that estrogen supplements are linked to Alzheimer's Disease after years of saying the opposite.
They can’t make up their minds about fish and pregnancy (maybe they forgot what they said).
Fish is good. Pregnant women should eat plenty of fish for the omega-3 fatty acids to avoid depression.
But keep in mind, fish is bad. Many types of fish are full of methyl mercury, which is harmful to fetal development. It's best to avoid frequent consumption of fish unless one is absolutely sure of the source.
And look! Norway is joining the game! Whale meat is bad for pregnant women.
Next: reasonable consumption of whale meat will be recommended during pregnancy.
It’s OK, honey. It’s no big deal. I'm not mad.
Friday, May 23, 2003
Tax cut without end?
The New York Times falls over itself to tell us how devastating the tax cuts will be to the government (and liberals will weep bitterly). Now I'm feeling better about this whole tax cut business (exactly as Karl Rove hopes I will).
My only beef with Bush is that he is not cutting SPENDING (which would make liberals wail and gnash their teeth).
A certain amount of Bush's swagger comes from his belief that a decreased tax "take" will actually increase revenue. And it will. But it is best not to push it.
Bush needs to remember that big government can be intrusive in other ways, too.
When the government is carrying a huge debt (where it appears to be headed), it is taking money away from private investment. The amount of money that can be borrowed is not bottomless. Too many entities chasing after too little funds means higher interest rates (contrary to popular belief, real interest rates are not "set" by the Fed), and these have the effect of dampening economic growth.
You have to cut spending. But 2/3 of government spending is MANDATORY, and it will not be easily trimmed.
You can't significantly cut the size of government without overhauling Social Security and the other entitlements (and switiching to private accounts).
I'm all for it, but the country - alas - is not.
Light blogging for the next few days. It may have something to do with the fact that my wife (finally) gave birth, and we now have a second son. Everyone is happy, healthy and BUSY.
Wednesday, May 21, 2003
Saddam gave his spies Viagra? Huh? Maybe this has something to do with Uday, who had a notorious problem with impotency as a result of an assassination attempt.
(Thanks to Joanne Jacobs)
Jayson Blair is sounding more like a strange bird:
"I was either going to kill myself or I was going to kill the journalist persona," he said. "So Jayson Blair the human being could live, Jayson Blair the journalist had to die."
At any rate, he is such an English major...
WTF? The Extreme Ironing World Championships?
A South African duo have won an extreme ironing photo competition by ironing a shirt while suspended from a rope across a mountain gorge.
Uh, yeah. Way to go….
During my college graduation, I watched our class speaker announce to his parents - in front of a thousand or so people - that he was gay.
I watched every face in the field turn to see a mortified father and mother. To some students, this was an indictment of modern homophobia.
To me, it was voyeuristic window into a private family moment, an embarrassing ambush of two innocent people who just wanted to proudly witness their son speaking at his college graduation.
A few years later, the world would discover that you could make a buck from such things, and Jerry Springer's career took off. Yippee!
But I never forgot what a zealous group of students did to the solemnity of such an occasion.
Some people at Rockford College had a similar experience when a reporter from the New York Times (who would have figured?) tried to turn their graduation ceremony into an anitwar rally.
They, however, had the courage to boo the SOB off the stage.
More evidence that modern art has degenerated into silliness.
When "anything can be art" (a favorite pithy saying from the art flakes), art, it stands to reason, can be anything.
And anything - like most art today - is usually mundane.
It has to be spiced up somehow - violent political diatribes, desecration of religious symbols, new uses for human excrement...something to make it shocking.
Artists complain that their work is being marginalized. Um, yeah.....Like I am going to take my son to see this exhibit in a museum:
I don’t get it, nor do I care to.
(Thanks to SHARKBLOG)
Tuesday, May 20, 2003
I’m not that inclined to believe that American troops are involved in mass torture. But this story – if it is confirmed – will make me rethink that: The U.S. military is using Metallica and the ‘Barney’ theme song as instruments of coercion in Iraq.
This needs to be thoroughly investigated by human rights groups - and no American parent will disagree. The theme from Barney? The horror! The horror!
Poverty losing its grip?
Good news, but I doubt it.
Ah, New Jersesians love their state!
If this is so, why do they spend so much time in PA, treating it like a racetrack?
And why do you have to spend money to leave NJ ? It's almost like they want to force you to stay there....
The Simpsons Character Tester.
Ha, I'm Moe, the grizzled barkeep - so don't mess with me!
(Actually, when I first took the test I was the straightlaced Principal Skinner, but then I got wise.)
A very weird story of an Abbot Primate (a high-ranking Catholic priest, not a monkey) who plays guitar in a rock band.
No, it gets weirder: their latest album is called Rock My Soul, and includes covers by noted spiritualists like Van Halen and ZZ Top.
And even weirder, the photo:
Can you guess which one is Padre Wolf? (Hint: he doesn't blend that well). Not surprisingly, the band is based in Germany.
Monday, May 19, 2003
Who is running a smear campaign here, France? Nice editorial cartoons.
In the Jayson Blair story, some people believe diversity is under attack.
But it's not diversity, per se, that should be questioned. It the means by which diversity is achieved. This Philadelphia Inquirer story describes another intern - an hispanic woman - who seems to be very talented and blossomed as an intern with Blair at the Times.
The striking thing about the article is that it looks like she deserved the NYT job offer: she worked her way through Baylor University, received a masters degree from Berkeley, and had two internships under her belt (the Inquirer and the Times). I suspect her resume is pretty standard stuff at (what was once known as) the most prestigious paper in the nation.
In contrast, Blair never even received his bachelor's degree from the University if Maryland. Isn't it possible that the NYT management wanted so badly to have a young black reporter that they bent the rules for him - maybe - just a little?
Alright, so now the North Koreans must be crazy: If the US attacks it, North Korea will consider this an act of war.
Why do they feel compelled to make such an obvious point? You bomb us, we're going to fight back! The US attack plan - Operation Turn the Other Cheek - will now have to be renamed.
They are increasingly desperate: selling drugs and poisons to make money?
These guys are scary.
Saturday, May 17, 2003
My Senator, Rick Santorum, has said some stupid things recently. He put homosexual sex in the same plane as incest, and he said the government had the right to prohibit it.
The danger in this, I think, is more than just outright bigotry: it comes down to Santorum’s real confusion about the purpose of law. Santorum seems to feel that law should be a place where a community expresses itself.
I, however, am a legal minimalist.
I believe we should strive to make the legal code as simple as possible. Every law establishes a crime, and every crime should be prosecuted. The problem with sodomy laws is that they establish a crime that few people really want to prosecute (and the minority that do are more frightening than the “problem” they wish to eliminate).
We should evaluate each law by applying two criteria:
1) Is it really necessary?
2) Can we enforce it fairly? (Are we doing so?)
Sodomy laws are dumb because sodomy is not a problem (#1), and the laws can’t be enforced fairly, only selectively (#2).
I saw some dumb laws when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa. Africa sets price controls on many commodities and foodstuffs. The laws are completely unfair (they hurt farmers and sellers disproportionately) and unnecessary (free markets work fine), and they are generally not enforced (because everyone breaks them quietly).
But they give a special ominous power to law enforcement, because they can be enforced - selectively. People in power select who will be prosecuted. If you speak out against a politician, you can expect to find that police will take quite a bit of interest in how your wife sells produce in the market, or how much you paid for the kerosene in your house. It’s a win-win for the bad guys: the politician intimidates you by having you imprisoned, and the police get the bribe money you’ll pay to free yourself.
I have a similar problem with speed limits in the US. I speed on the way to work. If you are on most US highways in the morning and you’re not doing 75 MPH, you’re part of the problem.
And the laws are enforced selectively:
First, they pulled over drivers from New Jersey, and I laughed, because I hate those SOBS…
Then they pulled over the car full of hippy kids with the anti-war bumper stickers. I thought this was groovy, because hippies belong in the Sixties…
Then they pulled over the sports cars and I was satisfied, because I have two kids and no money…
Then they pulled over the cars that were playing their music too loudly and SON OF A BITCH! Now I have points on my license!
I’m all in favor of setting realistic speed limits (on many highways this would be 75 MPH) AND REALLY ENFORCING THEM – using cameras mounted on highway overpasses. You speed, you lose – no questions, no bias. This would be fair (though not necessarily popular) and it would solve the problem.
Sodomy Laws? No. Bad idea, Senator.
(But as always, the democrats will overplay their hand in PA. Because Santorum’s bigoted, they’ll think that excuses them from having a platform. They’ll find some jackass trial lawyer from Philly with a dashing smile, some scripted answers and few dumb ideas on expanidng the government to help everyone. The guy will win Philly, but lose the state – just like last time. The democrats will be baffled that Pennsylvania is so bigoted and so skeptical of wonderful new government programs. Republicans have nothing to worry about as long as the democrats are so incompetent.)
Uh, maybe this is why the International Criminal Court is a bad idea.
Friday, May 16, 2003
The reader argues that senior US officials have acknowledged that Iraq had no WMD’s:,“Actually,” he says, “it is a huge story, just not in the US.”
I doubt it. “Senior official” can mean anything: it could be Dick Cheney or some hack working in the State Department.
The New York Times has criticized every aspect of the Iraqi conflict, from the diplomatic “bullying” at UN to the (virtually non-existent) looting at the Baghdad museum. This paper is the home of Maureen Dowd And Paul Krugman, two people who never miss an opportunity to rip the Bush administration.
I find it hard to believe the NYT would miss this story, or consider it unworthy of publication. Besides, every reporter dreams of being the next Woodward or Bernstein. Big stories make big reporters.
World opinion should have stopped us (in Iraq), but it didn't. The fallout from that decision is coming home to roost as EU countries are considering abandoning NATO and forming a new defense pact that excludes the US.
I’m certainly not scared of the France-Germany defense pact. Both countries are in serious financial trouble (so their military spending is very constricted), and both countries are democratic – so they are unlikely to go to wars against the US. In addition, both countries are likely to adopt the same passive military strategy that Europe has practiced recently (to Milosevic’s benefit).
Threatened economic "punishment" of France and Germany by the U.S. is resulting in similar sanctions against US companies. This will not help the US economy, already in a serious slump.
Europe is in much worse economic shape than the US is, and that situation is unlikely to improve as its pension crisis takes hold.
Besides, Germany now appears to be cooperating.
Actually, Arabs are rising up.
If this is "rising up," it's pretty lame. The Saudi’s are shaken, and they are questioning the BS their government hands them.
Iraqis are starving, cholera is breaking out, looting is rampant, and so far attempts to restore order have not be very successful…So far the number of civilian dead is closing on 5,000, but the dying is still going on.
The UN was saying that 4000-5000 children were dying every month in Iraq under Hussein.
The 5000 civilians killed figure is probably high. The deaths among the Iraqis soldiers and the people who fought alongside them (a ragtag collection of militants from Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Ansar Islami and Al Qaeda - all terrorist organizations that weren’t supposed to have anything to do with Saddam) was certainly much higher, and the fact that many of these people were fighting out of uniform should have made the situation even worse than it was.
Every innocent civilian death is a tragedy, but let's put things in perspective. The Russians killed 100,000 civilians taking Grozny. 100,000. There were few protests, human rights groups did little, rock stars were silent, and the Pope kept his mouth shut.
In World War II, the US and Britain killed nearly two million innocent civilians, many of them in friendly countries. Was that war wrong?
This war removed a terrible dictator. The Iraqis know this. My question is : why does the American left not know this?
A reader from thoughtcrimes and I have been e-mailing each other for the past few days. He has been nice enough to write detailed replies to my questions. My responses to him require time and I have decided to put them here:
Actually, the tapes of bin-Laden have been "authenticated" by the CIA and he was making reference to contemporary topics which would indicate he was alive as recently as a few weeks ago.
I’m just not convinced by AUDIOtapes.
And I don’t think the Arab world is either. Huge things are happening in the Arab world and there is plenty for Al Qaeda to be angry about. Nothing is more important right now than a picture of Bin Laden in front of the latest issue of the International Herald Tribune.
We know it. He (provided he’s not dead) knows it too.
He may in disguise, dressed as woman, say, in Indonesia.
I doubt this because his image is the most potent thing Al Qaeda possesses and he has plenty of friends and places to hide – bearded, white-robed, preaching hate (quietly).
I’m not all that convinced by the CIA’s “evidence.” The CIA – as is well known – is not bound by its commitment to truth. Disinformation in the name of national security is their whole modus operandi.
I not passing judgment on them – I think their job is necessary. But this is just a fact.
They may not consider it in the national interest to declare Bin Laden dead. The nation would breathe a huge sigh of relief, declare the war on terrorism won and the national security issue would take a backseat to some other silliness – national health care, maybe. Such loss of focus would be dangerous, because the idea of Bin Laden is more important than the man himself.
In addition, by insisting that Bin Laden is alive, both the CIA and Al Qaeda insure that no successor can be named. It also confuses matters inside Al Qaeda too: awaiting contact from the leader – who everybody seems to know is alive – many terrorist cells may be dying on the vine. Or better yet, when the cells try to contact Bin Laden, they make themselves visible to the CIA.
And I also remember that an independent Swiss lab analyzed the Bin Laden tapes and declared that they were obvious fakes.
Some of these things are conspiracy theories, but I make no apologies. But I also find it amazingly humorous that people who usually doubt everything the CIA says take this story at face value.
I’m not saying that Bin Laden or Hussein are dead (neither of us knows this answer). Their actions – notably their non-actions – are consistent with death. And these are all we have to go on, because if either one of them is dead, it will be a secret.
I remain skeptical, and the minute photographic evidence emerges, I’ll admit my error.
Thursday, May 15, 2003
Some people just can't get over the fact that the war caused little damage to Iraq. We spent billions making and using the most precise weaponry in history. In taking Grozny, the Russians lost 5000 of their own soldiers and probably killed 100,000 civilians. Grozny is one twentieth the size of Baghdad. You remember the huge outpouring of outrage over Russian actions in Chechnya?
I don't either.
No destruction? It's so un-photogenic! Tony Auth (Philly Inquirer) is on some kind of crusade:
Is Bremer standing on top of one Saddam's palaces?
Oh, boo hoo.
France complains of untruths perpetrated by the US to destroy the image of France.
What image was that? France was the coddler and enabler of a vicious dictatorship, and about that there is no question. You mean France once thought of itself as the home of something else?
Some element of police enforcement has to be intimidating. If my house was being burned down by a bunch of rioting thugs, I don't know if I'd be too reassured by this guy, zipping to the rescue: HI HO! Ginger!
Something about policemen on scooters just doesn't do it for me. It's kinda like policemen on roller skates - not intimidating. No wonder the English have a crime explosion on their hands, particularly in London.
But this is an improvement:
Wednesday, May 14, 2003
Oh, will they ever learn? Very few Philadelphia parents, now notified that their children’s schools are failing, care enough to transfer their children out of them.
I sense a revelation coming on.
Maybe – just maybe – the reason why these schools are so horrid, is because – maybe – the parents simply couldn’t care less about their child’s academic achievement?
Nah! Let’s go through another round of painting over the graffiti, fixing the broken windows, replacing the torn books, and burning out young teachers! That costs money, and money is always fun to spend! Especially when it’s not ours!
A nauseating story from New Jersey of how petty and litigious our society has become:
Blair Hornstine suffers from an immune deficiency disease that has forced her to take classes at home - with private tutors - and she is not required to take phys. ed classes (which all other students must take to graduate). She excelled and her grades placed her at the top of her class.
If the story ended there, all would be fine. But it doesn’t end there.
She wants to be valedictorian. The sole valedictorian. But the school insisted that another student serve as co-valedictorian. This student actually attended the school, took ALL of his classes, and finished at the top of his class, with a GPA a few hundredths of a point less than Hornstine's.
Her parents – both of whom are lawyers, naturally – sued and won: Hornstine will represent her class as the sole valedictorian. Now Hornstine's parents are complaining about the hostility they are receiving from the school and the community. Many students are threatening not to clap - and may even boo - when Hornstine is at the podium.
All the disability advocates are coming out of the woodwork to defend these "special" people from the uncivilized brutes who criticize them.
Donna Conaway asks:
“Did Blair Hornstine gain an academic advantage because of the extra test time and individualized attention she was given? That's the wrong question.”
No, it is the right question. (In dealing with these people, they almost always say their critics ask the wrong questions, but they never answer them - it's very condescending).
A standardized educational environment is the only thing we humans can aspire to provide.
In reality, even that isn't fair: some students were read to as children; others weren’t. Some students go to bed at a reasonable hour and watch little TV; Others stay up playing video games. Some come from rich, stable households. Others come from broken homes. Certainly, we can help kids who fall behind, but it is beyond the capabilities of human beings to make everything fair.
The only thing we can do give them all the same learning environment and let some excel.
This is not a hearing aid or a wheel chair: Hornstine had different teachers - private tutors- and she certainly benefitted from their undivided attention.She was given unlimited time to take her tests, and she took them privately. She was essentially going to a different school.
The scary thing is these diversity advocates think they not only have the means, but the legal obligation to "make everything fair."
And they simply can't understand why unwashed people who don't even have degrees in developmental psychology would have the nerve to try to stop them.
Tuesday, May 13, 2003
Otto! You gotta watch what you say to the fuzz, dude!
School Bus Driver Reports Marijuana Theft to Police
It's going to be a rough summer in France. The government needs to reform the pension system, which it can't afford. Predictably, the French people oppose this. A luxurious retirement at age 55 is a luxury for which they voted! Prosperity by decree!
The strikes have already started, with almost no news coverage in the US.
The creaking pension system, low birth rates, exploding crime, unassimilated foreigners....Could France be the next Japan?
Me and my EVIL TWIN:
Monday, May 12, 2003
A reader complained about my use of the word "diseased" in describing Arab culture.
I make no apologies. I believe if you took ten of your most politically-correct multiculturists and dumped them into Saudi Arabia, "diseased" would be about the most mild description they would give.
First, the men would be separated from the women, and the two groups would be forbidden to interact. The women would be covered from head-to-toe in cloth, told never to drive or talk to men who weren't related. They would be subjected to the wills of their husbands (and looked at very strangely if they didn't have one). Both groups would be forbidden from speaking out in any way against the government, from drinking or having sex. And it probably wouldn't go to well if they were gay, either. And if one of them were to die, their "unclean" corpses are forbidden to be buried on Saudi soil.
No, that's not diseased....
Why doesn’t Bush use his popularity to make spending cuts? He’s spending money like a ...yikes, a Democrat! I'm all for cutting taxes, but not when we are increasing spending!
Oh no! Not that “flag-burning” amendment McCarthyism again! Can’t we just leave this stinker of an idea back in the eighties where it belongs?
One small step for Syria, several admissions of stupidity by decrepit, terrible regime...
Interesting political poll.
In addition to being insane, now it turns out I'm some kind of libertarian....
Wow. I could barely believe my eyes on this. Yes, excessive environmentalism is toxic to Third World development. Truth brought into light by…CORE? (Rogers rubs eyes in disbelief) The Congress On Racial Equality? What the heck?
(thanks to Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds for the link)
Infinite monkeys + infinite computers + infinite time = Shakespeare?
But this one is certainly true:
Finite monkeys + finite computers + finite time + limited funding = one shorted-out, old Mac, smelling of monkey pee.
Sunday, May 11, 2003
Such admissions are exceedingly rare: The awful truth: arrogant America got it right.
Two months ago, one could readily announce one's participation in an anti-war march. Now, many of us are caught in a grey blur. The black and white feelings of recent months have become smudged in the aftermath of what your everyday ingenue (Holly Golightly) might describe as a Very Confusing War. Ideological convictions began to founder at the sight of rejoicing Iraqis. People tried to find nice ways of saying that the casualties were few enough to warrant the outcome. And liberals like me had to ask themselves if in the end American hypocrisy mattered enough to outweigh the actual result - if confused and cynical motives (oil, presidencies, imperialism etc) could diminish the simple humanitarian triumph.
Joanna Murray-Smith wrote forcefully against the war once. Now, whe has the courage to admit she was wrong.
And yet, the World's Policeman did something no one else could or would do. It could have all gone horribly wrong, but it didn't. Civilians died, young men and women paid all kinds of prices and both Western and Iraqi children who lost fathers or homes have had their personal maps drastically redrawn by the hand of fate. But the fear and the torture is over. America, in all its infuriating arrogance, acted. Not so long ago, I dreaded this. And now, I have to admit, I was wrong.
It is a lesson as old as time itself: WAR WORKS. Against oppression, it has been the most important tool we have.
(Thanks to Tim Blair for the link)
Will democracy work in Iraq? That, of course, is the billion-dollar question, and I suspect that we won’t know the answer for fifty years or so.
There are not (at least not yet) the bright lights who made democracy in America take shape: we see no pensive Jefferson or practical Hamilton, no natural leader like Washington. How can a democracy survive such ethnic divisions and hold itself together without a Lincoln?
You need good people to create a working, deliberative democracy, and America has been very blessed in this regard. Perhaps events will create such people in Iraq. Or perhaps, Islamic society as it now stands is so diseased that it simply cannot create them.
Or course, I want to believe the former, but I cannot discount the latter.
Arab history does not provide much comfort. Iraq’s culture is not promising. It reads like a fulfillment of Peters’ seven principles of failed societies:
These key "failure factors" are:
1. Restrictions on the free flow of information.
2. The subjugation of women.
3. Inability to accept responsibility for individual or collective failure.
4. The extended family or clan as the basic unit of social organization.
5. Domination by a restrictive religion.
6. A low valuation of education.
7. Low prestige assigned to work.
Cultures that suffer from most of these traits are always poor and oppressive, and rich democracies rarely suffer from any of them.
Iraq suffers from information restrictions (#1), and even under a new government, a certain amount of that is likely to continue because its restrictive religion (#5). #3 is a problem throughout the Arab world (witness the “blame Israel and America mentality” for Arab under-development). Women are treated poorly in Iraq (#2), though the situation there is not nearly as bad in Saudi Arabia. Iraq is certainly clan-oriented (#4), though I can’t answer as to whether the country is afflicted by either #6 or #7. (Without living in the culture for a time, it is hard to say).
The chances for a deliberative democracy forming in the short term are bleak.
Does this mean we should not have invaded?
Arab societies – like all clan-oriented structures – have a deep respect for power, and not much else. They watch American (and Western) society through this lens. When the typical Arab looks at American society, I believe he does not really understand what he is seeing. Everything to him is either strength or weakness, and the very things that we would count among our strengths are things that he will see as weakness. When we debate, he sees indecisiveness. To the Arab, compromise and negotiations are pursued only when surrender is the only other option. All the things we see as democracy, they see as signs is that the West is looking for direction.
And it is direction that the Arab world is eager to provide. This is the essence of the dictatorial mindset, and we have seen it throughout history, though we never seem to recognize it in the present.
The dictatorial mindset detects weakness by instinct. They smell it like a shark smells blood in the water.
In the nineties, there was blood in the water. The “Superpower” retreated in Somalia, appeared on the defensive in against terrorist action. It weakly negotiated to bring terrorists into courtrooms, and responded to direct military threats (Bin Laden) and brazen taunts (Hussein) with weak gestures of military force.
In the Arab world, if it is not power, it is weakness. These actions were the vibrations of a mortally wounded fish, flailing in the water, looking to escape.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have removed all doubt about our capabilities and our resolve. The Arab viewed these events with complete confusion: The US and its allies, it seems now, are powerful.
I don’t listen to what the Arabs say: they’ll tell us we’re bossy, unilateral murderers content to push their culture aside.
I watch what they do: now they are negotiating, compromising and debating.
In the Arab world, if it is not power, it is weakness. The Arab street is watching. They too can smell weakness.
There is blood in the water, but it is not American.
The war in Iraq has been bad news for the horrid governments of Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria. They are now on the defensive. Arab liberals have been vindicated (they said that Middle East has things to learn from the West) and Arab conservatives (who said that Allah would help Arabs defeat infidels) have had a bad year.
These are good things for the future of the world.
They would not have been achieved without the war.
(Thanks to the incomparable Steven Den Beste for clueing me in on Peters)
Saturday, May 10, 2003
Required reading in the Wall Street Journal: Awad Nasir is an Iraqi poet, until recently exiled in London:
The U.S. and its allies took grave risks and showed exceptional courage in standing up against powers such as France and Russia, and their unwitting allies in the "peace movement," who tried their desperate best to prolong Saddam's rule. We now know that many of those "peaceniks" were actually in the pay of Saddam. Documents seized from the fallen regime are being studied by Iraqis and will expose the professional "peaceniks" everywhere.
The U.S. and its allies should be prepared to take a further risk, and ignore the supposedly disinterested advice of France, Russia and the Arab regimes to salvage the political and social legacy of the dictatorship. Last February, the U.S. and Britain stood firm and insisted that Iraq must be liberated, regardless of whatever anyone might say. Today, they must remain equally firm in asserting that Iraq must be democratized. They should not leave Iraq until they are asked to do so by a freely elected Iraqi regime in Baghdad.
In the meantime Jacques Chirac, Vladimir Putin, Kofi Annan and others have no authority to speak on behalf of my people.
Three US soldiers killed in Iraq.
What were they doing there in the first place? Protecting the oil fields? Trying to intimidate the Iraqis? Shooting at militants?
No, they were ferrying a wounded Iraqi child to medical attention when their helicopter crashed.
Of course, it was just a publicity stunt. The US army is composed of robotic soldiers following orders, not human beings. They could not possibly have cared about a child.
This is what most of the world believes, but this mission is one of thousands that have taken place since we went into Iraq. For every US soldier that has been treated in US field hospitals, hundreds of Iraqis have received attention.
These soldiers were doing important work. They were doing good works.
We lost six soldiers on similar humanitarian mission in Afghanistan last month. Why is that the global hegemon gets so much criticism and so little credit for the good it does?
The Washington Post's Jonathan Chait is right on:
“Perhaps the most disheartening development of the war -- at home, anyway -- is the number of liberals who have allowed Bush-hatred to take the place of thinking. Speaking with otherwise perceptive people, I have seen the same intellectual tics come up time and time again: If Bush is for it, I'm against it. If Bush says it, it must be a lie. Their opposition to Bush has made liberals embrace principles -- such as the notion that the United States must never fight without U.N. approval except in self-defense -- to which the Clinton administration never adhered (see Operation Desert Fox in 1998, or the Kosovo campaign in 1999). And it has made them forget that there are governments in the world even more odious and untrustworthy than the Bush administration.”
Amen to that.
Hatred is irrational and the Left is full of it right now. Sputtering with rage, they are unable to communicate clearly. They are going to pay a dear price in 2004 if they don't snap out of it. If that election were held today, they would be pummeled in the House, they would lose four more seats in the Senate, and Bush would get four more years.
Having a viable second party is essential, and I think the Democrats need to re-discover themselves. They should start by examining their heroes. The evolution from John F. Kennedy to Teddy Kennedy parallels the decline of the Party. John was vibrant, distrusted big government, strongly advocated a muscular US foreign policy and viewed government as a tool for making the US (and the world) a fairer place (so that the exceptional could excel). Modern Democrats forget this, and they cast him in the image of Teddy: a bloated, self-serving and thoroughly corrupt politician, who views government largesse as a way of buying the votes of society's losers.
The Democrats need more Joseph Lieberman and less Howard Dean. At some point they will discover this. It would be better for the nation if they discovered it now instead of in 2020.
Friday, May 09, 2003
I am surprised that this story has not gotten more attention: The Nature Conservancy used to be one of my favorite charities, but after this, I’m not sure.
The Nature Conservancy (supposedly) uses its money to buy environmentally-sensitive land, keeping it from development. I have always liked such common-sense, free-market thinking: instead of lobbying the government to change the rules, why not just play by the rules and buy the land?
Apparently, The Conservancy has been selling sensitive land at huge losses to its friends (donors) - for development. The friends get the land very cheap, and they are free to build on it (with some restrictions). They donate money to the charity to cover its loss, but pocket the tax deduction for themselves. Everybody wins!
A Nature Conservancy trustee, Philip Reed Jr. of New Jersey, explained: "I don't want to attract any attention to this in any way."
I bet you don't.
A quick thanks to Government Monkey for the link.
This is the kind of story that angers the hell out of me. ACORN is a group that specializes in enacting living wage laws in cities. These laws make the business climate even more expensive, and thus increase unemployment. Businesses cannot prosper when they can’t get (at least some) cheap labor.
High labor costs are just one more reason to pack up and move to the suburbs.
But ACORN is a particularly hard-headed group of people. They know full well that it won't help the cities, and they don't really think that you can legislate prosperity. They just want fairness at all costs.
ACORN, though, after getting these ridiculous laws enacted, calls their lawyers when the laws are enforced. Against them.
After all, they are SPECIAL!
This is the very elitism that I find so offensive about the left today.
Bush and Blair have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Hell, I’d vote for them. The Nobel Peace Prize has been an "elect-a-fool" award for years. Once they gave that award to Arafat, they bought the farm in my opinion.
More news about the hilarious side of Kim Jong Il. He is into stage comedies (with mandatory laugh pauses) for his military buddies. He’s a very funny guy! The hair, the pajama uniform, the hilarious threats of nuclear annihiliation!
More humor:"The North Korean government is floating bonds that offer no interest but buyers will get an 'expression of affection' from the communist regime," reports CBS Marketwatch. "The 'People's Life Bonds' offer no interest over the 10-year lifespan, but in the event purchasers win in a related lottery, the winner will be entitled to interest when the bonds are redeemed."
An "expression of affection?" That's rich. But not if you're a triplet! Triplets are dangerous!
Let's tally this up: human rights violations, nuclear threats, bad theater, economic policies that have driven millions to starvation...This sounds like a job for the UN!
But no, they want the US to handle this one.
Thursday, May 08, 2003
Kristoff and Krugman, "highly respected" columnists at the New York Times (two men who have gotten just about everything wrong in Iraq), are whining that WMD still haven't been found.
Kristoff actually accuses the US of manipulating intelligence and fabricating evidence. I have news for the professor: if the US was doing that, we already would have found WMD. They would have been perfectly arranged for their photo ops by those dastardly folks in the CIA. We wouldn't be poking around, rooting through rusty barrels of insecticides.
The columns are also poorly timed .This whole event is a developing story. It's very possible that this truck is exactly what we think it is, and that these two columnists will need a new whine: OK, so he did have illegal weapons-producing facilities. But there was no evidence that he was actually going to do anything with them! (No, not a guy like Saddam!) This is just a technicality!
The WMD question is important. I believe they’ll turn up. There are too many pieces of evidence, even for a novice like me.
Some of Saddam’s highest ranking, and most pampered, officials were biologists, chemists and nuclear scientists. Dictators aren’t usually fond scientists. The scientific search for truth is seen as a threat by the dictator, UNLESS the scientist might be able to give something he wants.
I don’t think Saddam wanted to make pharmaceuticals. He wasn’t interested in cornering the world plastics market, or making genetically modified food (if he were, he would have faced the full strength of Europe’s armed might…hee, hee…).
He was known to have tons of the dangerous stuff in 1998. If he destroyed it all, where is the evidence? If you destroy five tons of mustard gas shells, there going to be things left around. Dangerous residues, etc...Why didn’t he show the world? Why didn’t he just let the inspectors in with no conditions on the size of their group? Why were they forbidden to use aircraft? Or travel without minders?
Also very important: Bush and Blair have both made statements in the last two days expressing confidence that WMD will be found.
They are keeping the issue alive.
A desperate man, seized with doubt, begins to cover his bases a little better:
“Look, there is more to this war than WMD,” he would be expected to say. “The liberation aspect is very important, and look at all the good things we are doing there…”
But they are not doing that. Ari Fleisher has been very clear and consistent: this is the most important issue.
I think they know they’ll be vindicated.
Listening to NPR yesterday (I know I shouldn’t, but I do anyway), I had the annoyance of hearing an old person complain about "important" issues to the elderly.
She criticized the pharmaceutical situation in the US, and went on to say that she and her friends had designs for something that was better than a mere supply and demand system. I have my own conceit: people are rarely able to better match supply with demand than the market. But she claimed to be able to do so, so I have to give her points for having brains (or at least thinking she did).
But then she described her second most important issue (and in the process, she discredited her approach to the first): trying to make sure that she and her ilk weren’t “preyed upon” by telemarketing scams.
Look, if you are smart enough to redesign the incredibly complex world of drug companies, insurance companies, pharmaceutical benefit managers, state aid, federal aid and company health plans, you should be able to understand this:
That Nigerian guy calling you really doesn't have links to huge amounts of money back in Nigeria! Wiring him $10,000 is a mistake! It doesn't matter if he has a nice voice!
We ought to make room for another one on the couch. This woman is insane.
"My anti-Americanism has become almost uncontrollable. It has possessed me, like a disease. It rises up in my throat like acid reflux, that fashionable American sickness. I now loathe the United States and what it has done to Iraq and the rest of the helpless world.
I can hardly bear to see the faces of Bush and Rumsfeld, or to watch their posturing body language, or to hear their self-satisfied and incoherent platitudes. The liberal press here has done its best to make them appear ridiculous, but these two men are not funny.
I was tipped into uncontainable rage by a report on Channel 4 News about "friendly fire", which included footage of what must have been one of the most horrific bombardments ever filmed. But what struck home hardest was the subsequent image, of a row of American warplanes, with grinning cartoon faces painted on their noses. Cartoon faces, with big sharp teeth.
It is grotesque. It is hideous. This great and powerful nation bombs foreign cities and the people in those cities from Disneyland cartoon planes out of comic strips. This is simply not possible. And yet, there they were."
Yikes! Like "acid reflux," eh? Does she need a therapist or a drug clinic?
Good things going on in Iran?
War certainly has a way of making people stand up and take notice.
I suppose it is one of those imponderables: What do you have to do to be considered weird in San Fransisco?
Who sponsors something like this?
Quick thanks to Government Monkey for clueing me in.
Wednesday, May 07, 2003
Oh, here we go again. This time it's the Saddam tapes. AUDIO tapes.
If the jackass wants to prove he's alive, he knows how to do it. Jeez, he has the money. He can afford a video camera.
He's dead until he proves otherwise. No voice recognition experts needed. No mysterious sightings. No fresh footprints left in the sand...
I think Scrapple face says it all.
Damn! I can't get to this page!
The left argues something like this: Bush didn’t start the war to liberate Iraq! He started it to find weapons of mass destruction! They haven’t been found, so he has failed.
But in this war, there were so many reasons to fight: Saddam was a brutal dictator hated by his own people, he was a threat to his neighbors, he was thumbing his nose at the world by breaking the Gulf War ceasefire terms, he was working with terrorists, he was starving his people in the Oil for Food Program, and he was making weapons of mass destruction.
All of those accusations have been proven, except one.
It reminds me of the intellectual left poo-pooing of Lincoln: he didn’t go to war to free the slaves! He went to war to save the union!
Waaa! But history records that he did both.
And Bush (and Blair) will be recorded as the liberators of Iraq. And the left loses another dictator, standing up to democracy.
Another reason not to get sick in China anytime soon (were more needed?)...
China has given its quarantined SARS patients a reading list. And there are some real page-turners here.
When I ‘m sick, there’s nothing better than curling up in a comfy blanket, piping hot tea in hand, to drift off into a socialist dream world.
“The People’s Grain Quota Production Index for 2003?”
Oh yeah, that does it for me.
Better than Nyquil. Zzzzzzz….
Tuesday, May 06, 2003
Oh, those crazy Palestinians! Refugees once again. Someday you guys will pick a winner!
Philadelphia Inquirer Cartoonist Tony Auth has a habit of missing the boat. There have been links to terror, and there isn’t going to be a Shiite Islamic state. I find it hard to believe that Iraq would have voluntarily destroyed all the illegal weapons that it admitted having in 1998, but kept it a secret (even in the face of a US invasion). But Auth can’t help himself.
And this one has been exposed as myth.
I was listening to NPR and there is still no word on the increasing Jenin Massacre-like quality of the whole museum looting story.
It must be difficult for them now. I still remember them saying how much Iraqis hated the Americans in Baghdad, how fiercely they would fight for Saddam, and how the American army would be bogged down for months.
Whenever I want to know how bad things are not going in Iraq, I give a little listen...
I’ve long admired Hernando De Soto. I’ve read one of his books. His ideas on eliminating poverty would work in Africa and South America, if any government there had enough confidence to leave entrepreneurship in the hands of the people.
But that is too much to ask of the dismal governments of the Third World.
De Soto demonstrated that in order to open a business legally in Peru (and throughout the undeveloped world), a prospective businessman would have to get 60 different permits and stand in line at government agencies for several months. Therefore, it wasn’t surprising that few official businesses exist in poor countries. In the unofficial economy of the Third World , the so-called black markets are huge, and extorting money from these unliscensed merchants is big business for the corrupt police. Bad property law is why these governments can't tax, understand or accommodate a private economy.
He generally argues that proving “who owns what” is the first, and most vital, part of economic growth. Americans have tendency to forget this: I think in most schools, the legal issues of land ownership after the American Revolution (land deeds from British royalty, squatters’ rights, the land claims made in the push west) are lightly brushed over. But that was where the foundations of capitalism were built.
De Soto talks about Iraq in this interview: I hope Jay Garner is paying attention to this guy:
Monday, May 05, 2003
I find it hard to feel too sorry for this guy.
This man’s suffering probably means that some Israeli family will now get to see their little girl grow to adulthood. He seems like a loser, but this man would have killed my son without regrets because my son was born in the US.
So I have little sympathy.
He should blame Al Jazeera, and the fantasy jihad mentality that is so prevalent in the Middle East right now.
Prior to the war, many people thought that the exodus of jihadis to Iraq to fight the US was alarming.
I thought it was terrific: I would prefer that these junior terrorists attack head on, right into the barrels US Army tanks. It is better than what they excel at: attacking our most vulnerable citizens by surprise. The planes of 9/11 were hijacked by men like this.
The war in Iraq (and the subsequent rebuilding) is very much part of the war on terror….
Sunday, May 04, 2003
One of the most difficult jobs of the Iraqi reconstruction is going to be dealing with the oil. People who write newspapers generally believe that oil is an endowment through which a country makes life better for its citizens using huge government spending programs.
These people need to reconcile that idea with the facts on the ground.
The facts? Only ONE major oil-exporting country respects human rights (it is Norway).
All of the others have major problems with repression. One need not dwell on the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is an extreme case, but its abhorrent human rights record is common in the region.
It is not necessarily culture-based. The problem presents itself in African Nigeria (where the government blatantly represses local people to extract a government-owned commodity) and South American Venezuela (where Hugo Chavez is trying to rewrite the constitution so that he can be ruler for life).
I think oil is a curse (as much as diamonds are a curse in West Africa).
There are reasons why democracy and oil wealth have difficulty coexisting.
The most difficult aspect of formulating a democracy is the problem of taxation. People (rightly) view taxes as a terrible price to pay for the (usually) meager services of government. Taxes are regressive – they discourage growth – because the people who are most inventive or industrious usually get hit the hardest.
Once a prospective democracy can jump that hurdle without widespread discontent, it is virtually home free: spending money is always more fun than extracting it.
But that hurdle is vital. This is where all members of society – mothers, retirees, indigents, young people, people who inherited wealth, industrious people who earned it, people who expect to be rich someday – must all come forward and tell society why they should be allowed to keep their money.
It's a painful process. But it's the process on which true democracy is built. True democracy works because when I cast my vote, I am voting for the candidate I believe will most responsibly spend my tax money. I have a stake in the outcome of the election, and there are meaningful differences between the parties.
In an oil-rich state, this important process – the process of determining what tax fairness means – never takes place (and as result, other important processes never start: the most important question in Iraq is "who owns what?" Iraq's understanding of property - particularly private property - is lost in a socialist time warp).
Oil states' ability to spend money is limited only by their ability to dream. Great buildings are built, universities are endowed, generous benefits are bestowed.They all belong to the people.
But eventually, a central truth becomes apparent: government spending doesn’t relieve wealth disparities in societies. It doesn’t make people become engineers, it can't buy ambition and extra funds don’t create entrepreneurial initiative. As a result, the rich stay rich, the poor stay poor (even with generous government help), the economy stagnates and the social immobility leads to frustration.
This is the situation in the Middle East today.
Governments like Saudi Arabia – which generously subsidize their underclass but never eliminate it– are trying to stave off a future like Venezuela’s. There the poor have elected (and strongly support) a repressive dictator whose stated goal is total wealth redistribution (i.e. socialism - which has an even more dismal track record on human rights than the oil states do).
Oil is a curse because it prevents governments from performing their central function: designing a society that pays for its functions equitably (this is something that even the US can’t do (most people in the US pay NO income tax), but at least this country is debating the issue continuously.).
This brings us to Iraq and it's tremendous oil reserves.The natural tendency is to view Iraqi oil as a resource for the Iraqi people. George Bush has said as much, and it sounds great. It shouldn’t be a resource for anyone else, should it?
But my fear is the US will stop here. Working out taxation systems is dirty, contentious work. Even a low, flat rate tax (like Russia has succesfully adopted) is likely to enrage the poor - who are now quite supportive of the Americans. It will make enemies, and it seems unnecessary, particularly to conservatives: the Iraqis have oil. Why should they pay any taxes at all?
If we are going to make such a conclusion, we might as well go home now, for the chances of Iraq having a functioning democracy are virtually nil.
The Iraqi oil revenue should not be a bottomless government commodity. It should be placed in a trust to be privately managed (this will be very tricky, but there are ideas).
The companies that drill oil should be private (not state owned) – which means they will be foreign – but taxed heavily for the privilege of drilling each barrel. The revenue generated should be treated like lottery revenues are treated in the US – used to support schools, help retirees and assist war veterans. Perhaps a portion should be given to each citizen to spend as he or she sees fit (which would make the tax pill less bitter).
But the day-to-day functions of Iraqi government must be supported by tax revenue.
This is the right thing to do. As a consequence, the left will be against it (all the revenue should go into government coffers! The little guy can't be trusted!).Forcing the Iraqis to develop a tax system will be very unpopular with the UN and the international community. The “peace” movement will roll in its grave with all kinds of warnings about capitalism running amok.
Iraqis will protest that they are paying too much and they will blame Americans. They will wonder why an oil-rich country needs to have any taxes at all.
Just like a true democracy.
It will sound wonderful to hear such sentiments finally coming form the Middle East.
Saturday, May 03, 2003
I acknowledge that the full job of the Iraqi reconstruction is going to be difficult, but my general feeling is that things are going quite well.
I am surprised at how peaceful Iraq is, especially considering the vast numbers of weapons that are available to the populace. With so many discontents and so many weapons, the US should be filling several body bags a day.
That’s not happening, at least not yet. This is excellent news.
That said, though, the US does need to crack down. Occupation “light” will not work.
Saddam was an evil strongman, and many of Iraq’s problems can be attributed to him. But Saddam was the way he was because Iraq is the way IT is: a disorganized collection of power hungry groups that are eager to exploit each other. A powerful leader is needed to protect Iraqis from themselves.
A US presence needs to be felt throughout the country.
A former exile declares himself leader of Baghdad and starts issuing edicts? Arrest him immediately and make it clear that he has no real power (release him a few days later when no one cares).
A radical Shiite group takes control of Karbala and prohibits Americans from entering the city? Enter anyway, arrest the leaders and take over visibly.
These things do not come naturally to us. But we must act and act quickly. If we do not, we will not be arresting them in the future. We will be fighting them (Power, once tasted, is intoxicating).
We are uncomfortable doing such things. It is police work: walking the beat, showing the power of law.
American soldiers are the world’s best at fighting wars. But at directing traffic, they are terrible. And it’s not because they don’t know the rules of the road.
Americans make terrible peacekeepers because they are attractive targets. Every troublemaker in Iraq wants to kill an American, and the lone GI guarding the police station looks wonderful in a gunsight.
A Bulgarian peacekeeper is hardly worth the effort. They will spend less time defending themselves, and more time doing their jobs – stabilizing Iraq so that a better government can be formed.
For this reason, the US is internationalizing this role.
This is another one of those things that the media said would not happen without the UN.
It is astounding how wrong they have gotten things. It started when the US went to the UN: world opinion would stop us; the Arab street would rise up; the Turkish refusal would make the invasion too treacherous; the US would bomb for several weeks before invading; weather would prevent war; massive numbers of refugees would stream across borders; the oil wells would be destroyed; hundreds of thousand of civilians would be killed; the Iraqis would hate us; the Turks, the Iranians, and the Syrians would intervene; the US would get bogged down; street to street fighting would wear us down…
All proved wrong. Its not that these shouldn’t have been presented as possibilities. It is that, too often, they were presented as insurmountable inevitabilities.
The media needs to look at itself closely. There are reasons for the inaccuracies.
But in terms of outright bias, it is hard to beat NPR. On a day in which hundreds of millions of dollars (of Baathist loot) was found hidden behind a secret wall in Baghdad, Tikrit surrendered without bloodshed, a mass grave was discovered near Mosul, and vast warehouses full of food and medical supplies (hidden by the regime in the Oil for Food program) were found and finally disbursed to their intended recipients, NPR fixiated itself on…the looting of the Iraqi national museum. A story that was already three days old.
And that story is now being proved very exaggerated. The New York Times has been no stranger to bias throughout the whole war, and yet it still can’t even admit how badly it got the story wrong. The headline reads: Loss estimates are cut on Iraqi artifacts.
From 170,000 missing pieces to 85,000? 8500? 850?
No, to 25.
That is not …uh..”a cut.” And to make matters worse, it was an inside job, and many of the museum employess themselves were likely involved.
I was amused by how apoplectic NPR was about the whole affair. Not a single person in the newsroom, and less than a few thousand people in the whole country, could name a single piece of artwork in Baghdad’s museum. Yet, the (unrevised) loss was “staggering” and was described as the “greatest loss to art in 800 years.”
Well. Maybe to the elite, art-loving listeners of NPR, it was.
For me, art is nice, but human life is much more important. If my son’s life was on the line, I’d take a pair of scissors to the Mona Lisa itself.
To me, and to most Americans, there were other stories that were more important: American soldiers getting shot at, winning the war, exposing the brutality of Iraqi regime and proving (surprise!) that the Iraqis really were hoarding food to starve their people. The French, in particular, have been denying that for years.
I think NPR, the New York Times, the BBC, and just about every European news organization were just too desperate to tell us something bad when statues were being felled across Baghdad.
Accuracy? Hey, you can always print a correction later.
(Doctor’s note: In the session prior to this one, the patient showed a bizarre disconnect with current events in the Middle East - simultaneously downplaying Iraqi anger at Americans, and overemphasizing the beneficial effects of the war (NPR sees none of this). I asked him about it….)
I’ve seen the protests against Americans, telling us to leave immediately. I read about looting, the discontent with the security situation and the frustration with American leadership.
It’s there, no doubt.
Some Iraqis who want us to leave. NOW. But the majority want us to stay.
Protests don’t necessarily reflect the will of the people. We, of all people should know this about protests. On February 15th, nearly a million people converged on Washington to protest for Saddam’s “peace.” At the time, 60% of the population supported the coming war to remove the dictator. The protests changed nothing.
The people who want us to leave are mostly radical Shiites (and disaffected Sunnis with close ties to the former regime). One might think that they hadn’t thought the situation out, that they can’t possibly think that a power vacuum would good for Iraq.
On closer thought, though, it is clear that the power vacuum is EXACTLY what they desire. Islamic fundamentalism usually comes to power by exploiting this very situation: it did so in Iran and Afghanistan. Iran is rushing some of its most radical religious zealots into Iraq, and trying to fire up the locals (It is an old cliché, familiar to communists: if your revolution is failing at home, export the misery).
Will they succeed? Who knows? The final answer will rest with the Iraqi people.
But if the coalition were to leave (which will not happen), it would be the ultimate betrayal to all of our friends in the country. Many of them would be killed. The Shiite fundamentalists would likely try to seize power (with Iran’s backing). The Sunnis – of course - would violently resist this. The minorities of Iraq (Assyrian Christians, Turkmen, and Jews) would hide in their homes and hope for the best. The Kurds would seize (oil drenched) Kirkuk and Mosul, and would probably try to declare independence. This would cause the Turks to declare war (They have been fighting the PKK for decades, have continuing problems with the Kurds, and nothing rouses the Turks to war like the idea of an oil-rich Kurdistan on their border). The Syrians would press for the return of the Baathists through Tikrit, which no one in Iraq would want, but Syria can’t tolerate either an Islamic fundamentalist state or an independent Kurdistan.
In short, an American pullout would be the quickest route to a horrible regional war.
So, naturally, that is exactly what the intellectual left, the “peace” movement, and the Arab League are calling for. These people have been on the wrong side of just about every foreign policy issue in the last three decades, and they aren’t about to break that streak here.
But the adults are running foreign policy these days, and none of those things are likely to happen. The American military presence will guarantee stability (albeit stability with reasonable number of continued Iraqi protests) for the time being, and when things are running smoothly enough, the Americans will retreat to a base of some kind and would re-intrude only if constitutional principles were being violated.
The dream is that Iraq will become a prosperous capitalist democracy. There’s a reasonable chance of that happening.
But there is an EXCELLENT chance that Iraq will soon have the best government in the region (the Syrians, the Iranians and the Saudis set the bar so high…ahem).
And that’s simply the best investment the US can make in a post 9/11 world.
Friday, May 02, 2003
I think that Americans (and most people) underestimate the impact that the war in Iraq (and, more importantly, its aftermath) will have in the Middle East.
There are have already been little things, cracks in the armor, weaknesses in region’s immunity to change. Political reforms (modest, yes, but not insignificant) are underway in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Kuwait and Qatar have announced plans to give more power to their elected assemblies. The students of Iran, who hate the mullahs who lead them, plan a general strike for July 8th. Their goal is to shut down the country, and end their fundamentalist government. So far the government has no meaningful answer.
These are small steps, yes. But they are concessions to the power of the people. When totalitarian states make such moves, they are effectively admitting that the state doesn’t have all the answers. Reforms have a tendency to snowball to the point where people refuse to pretend they trust their government anymore, and it falls.
1989 was wonderful year to be alive.
Maybe 2006 will hold similar memories.
The problem, of course, is that the Arab world is deeply diseased.
They are among the proudest civilizations. Throughout history, the Arabs have made vital contributions to mathematics, literature, astronomy, navigation, shipping and commerce.
The problem with those contributions is that they ended a thousand years ago, as the Arabs turned a suspicious eye to the rest of the world, particularly, and understandably, Europe. (A similar tale of ancient achievement but modern stagnation can be told of China, but at least the Chinese are growing economically and have some hope for the future.)
The Arabs have an inferiority complex, and no way to relieve it.
Their combined economic output (as measured in GDP) is about the same as the state of Missouri. They make nothing except oil – and they can’t even get that out of the ground without Western engineers and equipment. Their children want to listen to American music, and they want to study in American universities. They produce no good science (their scientists immigrate to West), they get no Nobel prizes, their universities aren’t respected, nobody reads their literature or listens to their music. They never have good sports teams, no one travels there for fun, and their culture (particularly its treatment of women) is frowned upon.
There is recognition that while Western power is creative, the ONLY power that Arabs have is destructive power. They take outward pride in destroying things, but inwardly they are asking why they cannot even build the weapons they use.
It doesn't get any better when their economies are considered. They're barely creaking along: governments are in debt (to the West, no less), people are poor, unemployment is high and meaningful work is almost non-existent. The lack of work is particularly troubling, because the Middle East is very young demographically. Young people tend to be the most rebellious.
The cure for all of this is political and economic freedom, of course. But a totalitarian states can have none of that. The standard Arab formula has been to increase resentment of the West, calling it a war of cultures. The focal point of this is Israel. The Arab governments like to advertise their hard-line stands against Israel - in the same way Hitler used Germany’s anti-Semitism to seize power. They play to their disaffected (biased) youths and act as though they are with them.
Well, it’s not working as well now, because the governments are being increasingly exposed as irrelevant on the world stage. US actions in Iraq made this especially clear, and now many people in the Middle East are asking: well, what good is my government?
The horrid Arabs states better get answers quickly.
An associate of Prince Abdullah defended his government's recent (minor) reforms thusly: “We are fighting for our lives here.”
I think he’s right.
In Iraq, the coalition has destroyed another Arab holdout.
Each war that the US and its allies have fought in Arabia has destroyed a myth. And the fantasy-loving (in some case bug-shit crazy) Arabs cherish their myths and conspiracy theories.
The first Gulf War ended the myth that the US would do everything it could to avoid fighting in the Middle East. The US not only actively sought the war, it was winning it overwhelmingly until….it stopped.
That action led to the next myth: the West fears the dug-in Arab fighter.
Then came Afghanistan, when a few weeks of bombing ended the rule of the most entrenched and dedicated fighters of all: the Taliban, who thrashed the Soviets in the mountains of Afghanistan.
A new myth was created: the US will get others (i.e. The Northern Alliance) to do the hard fighting; it prefers to fight from the air to avoid casualties.
Thus, Arabs were shocked by the spearhead GROUND assault across the desert and into Baghdad.
There is now a palpable feeling of suspicion in the Arab world as people wonder what other "truths" might soon be exposed as myths.
It is great opportunity for the West, and it is exactly what Arab governments feared the most.
Like a computer trying to run two conflicting programs simultaneously, the Arabs are blinking, utterly confused, shuttling between two possibilities, one which is about to exposed as myth:
1) The US is the Great Satan, fighting a huge war against Islam. It wants to seize Arab oil and land, kill Arab children and evict the Arabs. And IT CAN EASILY DO THIS (after the Iraq war exposed the inherent weakness of one of the best armed Arab states), because the combined armed might of the Saudis, the Kuwaitis and the Emirates is a fraction of the Iraqi military, and no nation (or multilateral institution) on Earth can stop the American military. The US hates Arabs as much as Arabs hate Jews, and the Iraq War is the first step in its conquest of the region.
- OR -
2) The US is a good country that welcomes different cultures, but it sees governments that respect human liberty to be in its interest. It will fight tyranny (spending billions to kill as few people as possible), and it will take on the responsibility of building responsible governments even under the most difficult of circumstances.
Up until now, everything they’ve known (government propaganda, Arab understanding of power (use it or lose it), Al Jezeera, European media) has led them to believe number 1.
But those information sources have just been completely been discredited, and Arabs are thinking in new ways.
The future could be very interesting
Thursday, May 01, 2003
I don’t have a lot of respect for the “peace” movement.
There is nothing as pitiful as American or European pacifists. Hiding behind police and crouching behind established militaries, they claim to be non-violent.
It is blind cowardice.
The saddest among the pacifists are those who claim to their guidance from scripture. Jesus praised non-violence, didn’t He?
But Christ said many things. For example, He said that people who would follow Him should surrender their wealth.
But it is hard to give up one’s possessions. Being a pacifist is easy!
It is a cynical choice: proclaiming themselves to be non-violent, all the while knowing that they can call armed police to protect them and their homes at the first sign of trouble. How bold: proclaiming the moral purity of pacifism while protected by the world’s most advanced military!
Such people would do better to take themselves, their families and their silly ideas to a place like Liberia, where their safety is not secured by disciplined soldiers or police.
In societies where violent men imprison most of the populace, they would learn firsthand why some of our ancestors didn't consider struggling for freedom to be mere rhetorical flourish.
Such people are confused, but they are right when then say that non-violence can be an effective form of protest. It can be, provided it is used against a democratic country with a free press.
Ghandi’s non-violence worked against the British because the British had a conscience. They saw the injustice of colonialism, and they objected to it (and they made it known to their elected leaders). Ghandi may have been in India, but the battle he was fighting (non-violently, of course) was for the soul of the British people.
Martin Luther King’s protests would have been ineffective if America lacked a free press. People saw how ugly racism was, and this challenged people to look upon a corruption of America’s ideals.
Who knows how many Ghandis and Kings died in the gulags of the Soviet Union? Their speeches hushed, their writings destroyed, and their histories erased?
Without the freedom of speech, non-violence is pointless and dangerous. Violence has been the ONLY effective tool against oppression throughout history, and that will continue.
It is embarrassing to point out things that are so obvious. It is like telling a brilliant scientist that he’s wearing two different pairs of shoes.
Many in the “peace” movement consider themselves to be quite learned – and in many ways they are. Many are well -respected professors and clergy, but an advanced degree in Medieval Literature doesn’t teach you how to think. Living and working in the hermetically sealed world of academia doesn’t expose you to other viewpoints (though it should) and it doesn’t force you to vigorously defend your views (explaining your views to your students is a different thing entirely).
So, naturally, it is prudent to expect a cognitive train wreck when these people turn their keen intellects to US foreign policy.
Amazing feats of inflated self-righteousness were on display in the recent Iraq war.
Such displays are to be expected from Hollywood. There, people are trite. In considering questions of war and peace, no one says: “Hey, let’s ask the guy who played Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High!”
But we should expect more from our “intellectuals.”
Many of these people believed that Saddam was bad (usually admitted with an obligatory, passive sigh), but war was worse. Such people have good intentions, but they view any absence of war as being equivalent to their peace: the peace that Americans have grown used to (and naively believe that rest of the world shares with us). A peace that is secured by a professional military.
The grim truth of Iraq’s pre-war “peace” is now apparent. Iraqis are overjoyed to be done with Saddam Hussein and his brutality, because Hussein was quietly waging war on his own people. We are now seeing the hidden dungeons, the children’s prisons, and mass graves filled with broken bodies. Not satisfied with the industrial efficiency of Hitler or Stalin, Saddam’s men glorified murder, making it as ghastly as possible. Tongues were sliced out, children were dismembered on mother’s doorsteps, daughters were raped with knives, and parents were dissolved in acid while children watched. People who spoke out were ground in machines used to shred plastic and their remains were sent to their families as warnings.
These stories didn’t come out of the mind of some demented novelist. They came out of the mouths of the survivors.
These people do not wince painfully when some simpleton describes the regime as evil. They nod in agreement.
The war lasted three weeks and left the country intact. Saddam’s rule spanned three decades and nearly destroyed it.
It is here that we ask the learned professor: which was worse?
The peace movement does do some good. They constantly expose us to the horrors of war. Anyone who supported this war has to be able to look at the photos of maimed civilians and fallen soldiers. They need to look closely and memorize those faces. The pictures should haunt them, waking them up in the middle of the night.
But they should get up the next morning knowing that war is still justified. Why doesn't anyone have to justify peace?
I think it is about time. Turnabout is fair play.
In post World War II Germany, Americans marched townspeople through the concentration camps so that they could witness Nazi evil.
It should be this way also with the “peace” movement.
“Not in your name” were the prisons opened and the tortured freed. You marched for Saddam’s peace and kept your hands clean. Now it is your turn to have nightmares. Genocide occurred because fighting evil was beneath you, because you, like the Germans, did not want to get involved.
Maybe this war wasn’t done in your name.
But I am glad I can say it was done in mine.
I’m sure many of them will wake up and go about their business, convinced that a war fought by the US is always wrong, that America should not meddle in the affairs of others – a new isolationism for the 21st century.
But they will be opposed by other Americans, who are not morally troubled by opposing tyranny.