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The Therapy Sessions
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Good Ideas!


Iraqi Financial Reforms
Congressmen needn't worry that Iraq is on the way to becoming a long-run welfare case. The country's Governing Council has passed an economic plan providing for open trade, and a pro-growth, flat-rate 15% tax on corporate and individual income.

Plans are also well under way to give all Iraqis a stake in the success of their new society through the creation of an oil trust, some of which would go to fund public goods like education and some of which would be paid out directly to individuals on a regular basis (in a version of the Alaska oil trust). That strikes us as an enlightened way to show Iraqis that they have a stake in this transition to self-rule. But getting there will require some short-term American spending, and the trust would be impossible if Iraq were then required to service excessive debts.

An Iraqi Oil Trust will destroy OPEC.


The Moon Landing Was Fake!

Conclusive Proof.

Judge for yourself.

(Thanks to A Little More To The Right...)


A Great Headline Idea

A co-worker of my wife says that the newspapers missed a great headline opportunity after the deaths of the sociopathic Hussein boys:

Uday. Qusay. Ead-day.

I thought it was funny.


This Is Wrong

It's terrible, but friends say that it describes me:

I'm not really retarded. I'm special.


The Iraqi Press

Iraq now has the freest press in the Arab world. To anyone who opposed the war, this realization is met with something like "ho hum."

Which is yet more evidence of how little they understand: things there are going very well indeed.

Thomas Jefferson (a libertarian thinker who for some strange reason is viewed as the father of the modern big government Democratic Party(!)) once said if he were given a choice between a government without newspapers or newspapers without government, he would not hesitate to choose the latter: a free press, not a powerful government, is what makes civil society possible.

Baghdad is truly a marketplace of ideas. MEMRI recently did a survey of the Baghdad papers to see what they are talking about.

Anyone interested should read it all. Opinions are all over the map, and some are very good and some are very bad. But here are some excerpts that I thought were truly amazing (I've bolded quotes with particular interest):

An optimistic tone typified an editorial by the daily Al-Nahdha (affiliated with Dr. 'Adnan Al-Pachachi) which stated that "there are positive and important signs that the international position will lead to reexamination of the status quo and the authority of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), as well as the possibility of an expanded U.N. role in the political process…" According to the paper there are many factors on the international, Arab, Iraqi and American levels which may lead to shortening the transitional phase and "allowing the Iraqis to take over the administration and [realize] their autonomy and obtain international recognition…" The article concludes: "These ideas are not an illusion or dreams, but the result of an educated analysis of the present situation, and they undoubtedly represent the greater national interests…" [5]

The independent daily Al-Mada lamented the fact that due to problems of everyday life in Iraq "the political activism of our masses has been declining… after what seemed like an awakening of the silent majority, whose silence wore it down and made it lose its confidence in its ability to deal with oppression and suppression…" The paper lists democratic activities that immediately followed the removal of the former regime and says that "one of the reasons for the decline in these activities is that the [Iraqi] political parties focused on their inter-relationships and their relations with the Civil Administration, and their participation in the [new] regime… By doing so they ignored, or were not attentive enough to enhancing the popular movement, developing it and interacting with it… and it seems that the formation of the new government did not change this pattern…" The paper emphasizes that "establishing a pluralistic-federal-democratic regime cannot be accomplished with slogans and rhetoric but with comprehensive efforts… such as encouraging democratic initiatives of every type and embracing constructive initiatives…" The paper concludes with a harsh criticism of the Arab media: "which, throughout the tenure of the former regime kept on supporting Saddam, and [now] returned to spew its venom, distort the reality of our struggle and shake the confidence in our nation's ability to realize its aspiration in establishing democracy and resolving the crises created by despotism and occupation…" [6]

About the reversal of an earlier Arab League decision not to recognize the legitimacy of the Iraqi Governing Council, Al-Nahdha says in its editorial that "the Arabs are masters in wasting opportunities and in procrastinating in making important decisions… For weeks they questioned the legitimacy of the new administrative institutions in Iraq… but a sense of danger persuaded the Arab League to soften its position and to agree to Iraq's participation in its ministerial council meetings… This decision, although late and incomplete [Iraq's participation is conditional] is a very important step. There are indications that there is a serious change in dealing with the Iraqi issue both on international and Arab levels…" The paper further states that "the U.S. is no longer insisting on being the ultimate and only power in dealing with Iraq, which may bring about a quick responsiveness from other superpowers, and a recognition of the Governing Council and the new Iraqi government…" The paper concludes by saying that "an American recognition of the Iraqi administrative institutions… will nullify the excuses used by the powers of darkness to justify their acts of violence and destruction…" [7]

The independent daily Al-Hilal stated that "those who mislead public opinion [to believe] that everything was fine in Iraq during the reign of the dictator are misleading themselves more than anyone else. Could they possibly ignore half a century in the lives of their nations with a stroke of a pen?… You have to pardon us, because the educational curricula during the dictatorship taught students hatred, detestation, and racism. It taught them to wage wars among themselves, if there was no foreign enemy. As for getting back to normal… there will be a need for a timetable that may take years to change the nature of people, so that they will be able to eat a hamburger with an American friend or eat breakfast with an Israeli, or be able to tolerate seeing the Israeli flag raised over the Israeli embassy in Baghdad, and other things that they have not been used to seeing or hearing until now…"

An Israeli embassy in Baghdad? Try to find any other Arab land were that can even be whispered.

Monday, September 29, 2003

These Are Strange Times...

Timberlake Song, Bee Contribute to Car Crash
A Winston man told police he crashed his car after a bee flew into his mouth while he was singing along with Justin Timberlake's song "Rock Your Body" on the radio.

A guy? Singing a Justin Timberlake song? Yikes!

Friday, September 26, 2003

Wesley Clark Is Hot

And talk like this is really going to get the left fired up:
I was working for the Army chief of staff and doing lessons learned and things. And I didn't get to go to the celebration of Normandy, but we heard the speech when he gave it. He talked about how the rangers took Pointe de Hoc. He talked about how they did it for love. And we all cried. That's the kind of president Ronald Reagan was. He helped our country win the Cold War. He put it behind us in a way no one ever believed would be possible. He was truly a great American leader. And those of us in the Armed Forces loved him, respected him and tremendously admired him for his great leadership...

...We couldn't quite believe it. I mean Desert Storm was wonderful; we whipped Saddam Hussein and all that sort of thing. But the Cold War was over, the Berlin Wall was down. And President George Bush had the courage and the vision to push our European allies to take the risk to tell the Russians to leave, and to set up the conditions so all of Germany and later many nations of Eastern Europe could become part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, part of the West with us. And we will always be grateful to President George Bush for that tremendous leadership and statesmanship....

And I'm very glad we've got the great team in office: men like Colin Powell, Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Condolzeezza Rice, Paul O'Neill--people I know very well--our president, George W. Bush. We need them there, because we've got some tough challenges ahead in Europe.

I agree with Dick Morris: this guy is going to fade fast once the left gets a listen.


More Good News From Iraq

Influx of goods, cash puts Iraqis in buying mood
BAGHDAD -- When Massoud Mazouri learned that the U.S.-led coalition had ousted Saddam Hussein from power on April 9, he hurried to Baghdad from his home in northern Iraq to set up an electronics business.

Now the 28-year-old Kurdish merchant is selling televisions and satellite receivers at a brisk pace to gadget-starved shoppers. It's among the first signs that Iraq's larger economy is coming to life.

Iraq's new finance minister, Kamil Mubdir al-Gailani, announced sweeping economic changes this week that will allow foreign ownership of companies in every industry except oil and other natural resources. The 25-member Iraqi Governing Council hopes that Iraq's 24 million people will be an attractive market and workforce for global businesses willing to invest in the country.

But merchants such as Mazouri already are cashing in. Television sets, refrigerators and boxes of satellite receivers are stacked 10 feet high on the sidewalks of Baghdad's shopping districts. Shoppers who have waited for years to be able to spend their hoarded dollars are out in force.


Our Friends The French

Do we want these fools to help us out in the most important war we've fought since Korea?

The French still don't get it.


Contortions On The Left

In a post below ("Two Visions"), I contrasted two visions of Iraq, what it was and what it is (I think) becoming. I did this because I the left is generally incoherent on its position on that war.

I think Jay, at Shared Thought, demonstrates this "logic:" He supports the rebuilding and transformation of Iraq, is happy to see the liberation of the Iraqi people, but is very angry about the costs and the reasons for which the war was fought. He wishes there was more international involvement. But other nations were against the war, and they had (and still have) no desire to cooperate with us (the idea of creating a democracy horrifies Iraq's terrorist neighbors - and it scares France, which should know better). If we had tried to bring them on board, it is likely that Saddam would still be in power today, and killing thousands of his people every month.

The left has become increasingly isolationist over the last twenty years, and it tends to view distant dictatorships the way a biologist views exotic species: they should be protected, or left alone to grow: they are exotic fauna from other cultures.

They are (oddly) afraid to agree with this statement: democratic capitalism is superior to all other systems in promoting wealth and human rights. (Any survey of nations shows this to be undeniably true.)

That puts them at odds with most Americans, who believe that democracy and capitalism are the cure for the world's problems. Even Al Qaeda realizes the threat they represent, and that is why they have made Iraq the new battleground in the terror war.

Yussuf al-Ayyeri, was one of Bin Laden’s closest associates: Al Ayyeri sees now is a “clean battlefield” in which Islam faces a new form of unbelief. This, he labels: “secularist democracy”.Al Ayyeri asserts that this new threat is “far more dangerous to Islam” than all its predecessors combined.

Post-invasion Iraq is now, by far, the most pro-American country in the Arab Middle East.

An American loss in Iraq would be a huge victory for the forces of terror and chaos.

In the coming election, there will be a debate. George Bush and the Democratic candidate will each be asked about the War on Terror, which is (and will continue to be) the top issue on America's mind.

Bush's tone will be very similar to Churchill's, but the Texas drawl and tortured syntax will be all Dubya:

We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds.We shall fight in the fields and in the streets. We shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender.

He may trip over the words. He will have his vacant "Curious George" stare. But it won't matter, because the Democrat, trying to straddle a coalition of pacifists and terror hawks, is going to say something like this:

I was glad to see that we got rid of Saddam, but I wish we had gotten more countries involved. And it's all too expensive, and I think the president lied about the enormity of threat. Sure, Saddam was blaming all his problems on us, and directly funding terror, but he was more of a threat to Israel than he was to us. I want to get us out of Iraq quickly, but only when it is a clear victory. Then we can concentrate on health care and put the terrorists back courtrooms where they belong...

Some say Dukakis lost his election when the Willie Horton ads started running. Others credit his stumbling when asked whether he would support the death penalty for someone who killed his wife.

I think they are wrong.

Dukakis lost his election when he got in an M1A1 Battle tank and drove around a field. He looked bemused by a neat toy, and he didn't even look like he knew what it was (the government makes these things?).

He looked like snoopy, off to fight the Red Baron.

The world was still dangerous in 1988. And after a nice holiday from history (where terrorists were bumbling oafs), the world is again dangerous.

The Democrats need to realize this.


How Heartwarming!

Transit officials from region see Paris on toll payers' dime

Toll payers in the Philadelphia region paid more than $50,000 to send 15 transportation officials to Paris for this week's International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association meeting.

The convention, which ended Wednesday at Le Meridien Montparnasse hotel, was an annual gathering of more than 500 representatives of toll-financed transportation agencies.

International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association? That sounds like the kind of conference I would get stuck going to....

Except it would be in Newark.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

I Wanna New Drug...

Sometimes I get bored.

I think to myself: gee, it would be kinda cool to sniff glue, or to take a hallucinogen so I can feel like my head is crawling with spiders, or maybe something that would make it feel like my hands were transforming themselves into bats...

Yeah, that would be fun.

But then I read a story like this, and a few beers seems like enough excitement for me...

(via Hawspipe)

And Jesus! This guy didn't even need a drug! (Via Sociopathocracy)


Two Visions

In order to expose the general incoherence of the left, I would like to contrast two visions of Iraq, what it was and what it is becoming:

Iraq, 1998

Iraq in 1998 was at odds with the world, and it was waging an undeclared war against the US. The last terms of the Gulf War ceasefire - no "No Fly" zones set up to protect the Kurds and Shiites from Saddam - were being regularly challenged by Saddam's weapons. He had set up a bounty for the first Iraqi to shoot down a US or British fighter. At the UN, Russia and France were arguing that these minorities no longer needed protection; Saddam, they said, was a changed man. Both countries were arguing that Iraq needed an expanded "Oil for Food" program, a corrupt program run largely by the French and the Russians that is still unable to account for billions in Iraqi oil revenue.

Saddam had kicked out UN arms inspectors (a clear violation of the ceasefire terms AND a dozen UN resolutions) after they accused Saddam of importing sophisticated air filtration equipment (with no peaceful purpose other than biological weapons manufacture) and thousands of liters of biological growth media. Iraq admitted that it purchased these, refused to hand them over, and failed to account for several tons of chemical weapons that it declared in 1992.

Saddam had begun a highly publicized campaign to support violence against Israel, and eventually he would be paying the families of suicide bombers $20,000 each after a "mission." He took the food provided by the "Oil for Food" program and denied it to large regions of the country, causing starvation and the deaths of 4,000 Iraqi children a month, according to the UN (This was used by Osama Bin Laden as one of the justifications for his jihad). Everyone was dependent on Saddam for his family's food, so loyalty was a matter of survival.

Iraq's GDP decreased by 75% while Saddam built a dozen huge palaces. And every family lived in fear that a loose word from a child might land them all in prison. The prisons were packed with political prisoners, most of whom disappeared after ghastly tortures (and today fill mass graves). Saddam's police were everywhere, and so was his image. 300,000 people were slaughtered by Saddam's men, and another 750,000 died in his pointless wars.

Iraq, 2008
Iraq in 2008 is a lively place - there are occasional bombings, but the Iraqi people are largely tired of war and they don't support them. Iraqi police blame them on outside forces like Al Qaeda, and they are chasing these groups down.

Baghdad has, since the invasion, continued to maintain the freest press in the Arab world, a lively marketplace of ideas where one can find a paper from Al Qaeda next to an Israeli paper. There are no political prisoners in Iraq, and people are allowed to say what they wish, as long as they don't incite violence. As such, the city is a magnet for the Arab region, drawing students and activists from the around the Arab world who want to study and speak out freely. Several other Arab nations complain that "radicals" in Iraq are inciting their own activists, and a few countries (Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia) have enacted some modest democratic reforms (elected parliaments) as a safety valve for their restive populations.

The Americans are on several bases throughout the country, and there is so grumbling among some Iraqis that they should go home, but there is a cautious gratitude toward the soldiers who freed them from Saddam, and they worry their government isn't stable enough to endure without at least some American steel. The CPA started two big programs before it turned over power: one was popular and one was unpopular. A taxation system was set up (either a consumption tax, a VAT tax or a true income tax) and Iraqis uniformly hated it. It caused several large protests. But the pain of this program was offset by the national oil trust - a program modeled on Alaska's oil trust - that gave each Iraqi over eighteen a share of Iraqi oil revenue. (It did something that was deeply unpopular with the conservative Islamists: it gave women money too, and they, these Iraqis argue, are spending it unwisely: on dresses and other frills (but they also spend on their children)). This process has started a public debate over whether Iraq should be bound by OPEC's production quotas: most Iraqis don't like the other Arab states who cooperated with Saddam, and they feel that the quotas discriminate against Iraq. They want more money.

Baghdad has become something of a travel destination for wealthy Arabs: they don't like the "Iraqi experiment," but they are like farm boys seeing New York for the first time. They find the freedom invigorating, and they like to drink alcohol and go to clubs. They are snobby to regular Iraqis, and many Iraqis resent them.

Relations with Israel are not warm, but no one here wants to go to war. They have a relationship with Israel that is a little warmer than Jordan's, and the leaders of Iraq have, on occasion, met with leaders of Israel to discuss issues of mutual interest.

Some believe that Iraq's leaders are American puppets. But others complain that there are too many with sectarian or religious ties (accusing someone of being a Baathist is the worst insult). Some want to expel the Americans, and some Americans complain that many Iraqis are ungrateful.

The economy is better than it has been in a while, but there has been no "economic miracle." The private sector is growing, and Iraq is the only Arab country that lets people freely open businesses. As a result, Iraq is one of the few places in the Arab world that makes things for export. But they are small items and not worth much, and the jobs making them are not all that well paying, but some people - particularly women - like these jobs because they are easier than field labor (and they are indoors). There are complaints about fewer government jobs. But Iraq largely feeds itself and farmers no longer have to sell their food to the government (at artificially low prices). They are profiting, and they are expanding their fields. Unlike most of the world, in Iraq there is money to be made in farming.

There are complaints that Iraq is becoming secularized and that children don't respect old traditions like they used to. Most youths are more interested in music and each other. There is a sense that Iraq is changing in ways that many older Iraqis are uncomfortable with, but there is near universal loathing of Saddam Hussein.

In America, the idiot left is still trying to decide whether Iraq was better under Saddam: they don't feel that Iraqis are mature enough to handle freedom. They hype oipinion polls showing that one third of Iraqis think their country is headed in the wrong direction, and they believe that these are the smart Iraqis who are not being misled by a conspiratorial media campaign.

In 2008, I imagine the US will have lost a thousand or so soldiers, and spent about 250 billion dollars.

But if this vision of Iraq becomes reality, would the war have been worth it? Yes or No? Jay, Joel, Mike or Tim?

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

A New Iraq Poll

Baghdad Residents Call Freedom Worth the Price
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Sept. 23 — After five months of foreign military occupation and the ouster of Saddam Hussein, nearly two-thirds of Baghdad residents believe that the removal of the Iraqi dictator has been worth the hardships they have been forced to endure, a new Gallup poll shows.

Despite the systemic collapse of government and civic institutions, a wave of looting and violence, and shortages of water and electricity, 67 percent of 1,178 Iraqis told a Gallup survey team that within five years, their lives would be better than before the American and British invasion.

Of course, the editors at the Times are shocked by this. What? People are willing to endure hardship for the idea of freedom?

While 75 percent of those polled said the council's actions were "mostly determined by the coalition's own authorities," the interim government's performance received a favorable rating from 40 percent of those polled. Thirteen percent said it was performing poorly. Forty-two percent were neither positive nor negative.

It's not that they don't have criticisms, but we hear them on the news every day. These are residents of BAGHDAD, in the dangerous Sunni traingle. These are some of the very people who profited most from Saddam Hussien's rule!

And naturally, this being the New York Times, this story is buried. It's not mentioned on their front page, and you have to go looking in other international news to find it.

The NYT headlines? Don't even ask.

Surely Gallup just found a thousand or so crazy Iraqis for their partisan poll.

And there is still no comment from NPR's Anne Garrels.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Be Like...Finn?

Michael Jordan, eat your heart out! I wanna be like Finn!


Salam Pax

NPR's Terri Gross has interviewed the Baghdad blogger, Salam Pax.

"Pax" has been blogging from Baghdad since before the war. This was one of the most courageous acts I have heard of, and I was eager to hear what he thought about the war and its aftermath.

It is a generally upbeat interview - at times "Pax" is bubbly with excitement about the new Baghdad. He describes the unrest since the war, but he says its not as severe as the media has been portraying it. He praises the precision bombing campaign, and he says he feared Iraqis more than Americans during the war. He says that Iraqi policeman are now patrolling most of Baghdad, and life has pretty much returned to normal.

He has his criticisms of the US (mostly about issues of communication and international cooperation), but in general, he seems very relieved that Saddam is gone. He feels that the future in Iraq is bright, which is surely a shock to NPR's listeners.

I recommend giving it a listen here. (It is 30 minutes long, so be prepared to sit back!)


Will Bush Learn From His Mistakes?

Steel Tariffs Appear to Have Backfired on Bush

In a decision largely driven by his political advisers, President Bush set aside his free-trade principles last year and imposed heavy tariffs on imported steel to help out struggling mills in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, two states crucial for his reelection.

Eighteen months later, key administration officials have concluded that Bush's order has turned into a debacle. Some economists say the tariffs may have cost more jobs than they saved, by driving up costs for automakers and other steel users. Politically, the strategy failed to produce union endorsements and appears to have hurt Bush with workers in Michigan and Tennessee -- also states at the heart of his 2004 strategy.

Jay at Shared Thought says:

While the tariffs probably did lead to the creation of steel jobs in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, I doubt they had much to do with the loss of manufacturing jobs in Michigan and Tennessee. They would have been lost in any case. That has more to do with NAFTA and the continuing trend of moving manufacturing jobs abroad.

Nonsense. By raising the price of a commodity like steel, you raise manufacturing costs, and companies must cut costs. Employees are expensive, so they go. Jay is right that manufacturing jobs will sometimes go to lower wage countries, but steel tariffs are going to encourage that process further.

Jay seems to believe that environment in the 1950's (where the US was the sole global manufacturer standing) can be brought back in 2003 with tariff laws. Tariffs cut us off from the world, and they kill our exporters: their competitors are now not only using cheaper labor, but cheaper steel (purchased at the real global price) as well.

It's no wonder that Ford, GM, Caterpiller and Boeing (to name a few) lobbied heavily against the tariffs.

Tariffs are generally bad policy.

I know of a global product that, unlike steel, is produced by our enemies. It is produced by industries that are state run, so the revenue from this product goes right into the hands of corrupt leaders. The American competitors can't match the low price of this import, and it is clear that the producers have used a cartel to mainpulate prices.

This looks like a clear case for US tariffs! To protect the US economy, and its workers! Am I right, Jay?

But what if the product is OIL?

Friday, September 19, 2003

Clown Court

Federal appeals court to reconsider recall postponement

I kind of saw this coming. The court knows that if this ruling goes to the Supreme Court, it's history: the Ninth US Court of Appeals has had 70% of its rulings overturned by the Supreme Court. Some of them are notably ridiculous: they once argued that a prison inmate had a legal "right" to inseminate (artificially) his wife, but they never considered that, perhaps, women inmates might claim the same "right" (it really is a shame that prison has such an unfortunate effect on one's social life....).

They know how dubious this California recall ruling was. Its logic was ridiculous, and it has been criticized from the both the left and the right. It even had a parochial tone, indirectly commenting on US foreign policy.

Don't get me wrong: I think the California recall is a terrible idea. California puts itself in a horrible position. Spending increases win overwhelmingly in public referendums, but property taxes are capped. You can't have it both ways. There is a reason why representative democracy is superior to direct democracy.

Davis is a slime. He lied and told CA that everything was OK, even when he knew better. But he is exactly what California deserves.

They were dumb enough to vote for him, and they should be stuck with him for his term.

Anything else invites anarchy.


A Parable For Our Times...

VRWC: Batman's annoying liberal friend:

Deep inside the Batcave, Batman and Robin debate their next move. It has been two months since the Penguin viciously attacked the Wayne Mansion, putting the butler, Alfred, in intensive care.

Robin: What should we do next, Batman? Penguin is defeated and we should have him captured and to the authorities within the week.

Batman: I've been doing some thinking. Perhaps we should move now to take out the Joker before he has a chance to do anymore harm to Gotham City.

Robin: Holy Fucking Shit, Batman! Joker didn't have anything to do with the attack on the mansion!!

Batman: I realize that, but if are to protect Goth-

Robin: Don't give me that! Joker hasn't done anything to anyone in the last forty-eight hours. How could we possibly even think about hurting him?

Batman: Because he's the Joker you imbecilic fucknozzle!!

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Freedom Fries?

I never thought much of calling "French Fries" "Freedom Fries."

It was a little too stupid for me.

But now the debate has started again, and I'm saddened that no one is looking to compromise on this devisive issue.

What is wrong with "Traitor Taters?"


Ford's Controversial Anti-Pigeon Ad

This ad from Britain has raised a furor with British animal rights activists. So of course, it's funny as hell.

Go to this site. Click "View Highlights." Then click "Clip One."



Best of the Web Today::
Indian Giving

Remember back in April 2001, when we noted that the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, led by the noisome Mary Frances Berry, had issued a statement calling on all schools to abolish Indian-themed nicknames for their sports teams?

The reason we're bringing this up all these months later, though, is that it's come to our attention, thanks to Netcraft.com, that the U.S. Civil Rights Commission's Web site is running an Apache server.

That name - Mary Frances Berry - was familar to me. Here's why. I seem to remember this George Will column, where she was described in detail:

Some whales have vestigial legs because their prehistoric ancestors were land mammals. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is a vestigial leg on whale-like Washington. The commission has no serious function, other than to illustrate how far things have evolved.

Its head is a black woman, Mary Frances Berry, who, like many antebellum plantation owners and today's civil rights lobby, believes blacks cannot cope with life in predominantly white America, that they are comprehensively victimized and must be perpetual wards of paternalistic government...

...When Berry goes to Heaven (for her, the Soviet Union with China's educational system), her remains should be treated--she should like this--as Lenin's have been: preserved under glass as a reminder of the exotic fauna that once roamed through American politics.


Friedman Is Right

Our War With France
It's time we Americans came to terms with something: France is not just our annoying ally. It is not just our jealous rival. France is becoming our enemy.

If you add up how France behaved in the run-up to the Iraq war (making it impossible for the Security Council to put a real ultimatum to Saddam Hussein that might have avoided a war), and if you look at how France behaved during the war (when its foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, refused to answer the question of whether he wanted Saddam or America to win in Iraq), and if you watch how France is behaving today (demanding some kind of loopy symbolic transfer of Iraqi sovereignty to some kind of hastily thrown together Iraqi provisional government, with the rest of Iraq's transition to democracy to be overseen more by a divided U.N. than by America), then there is only one conclusion one can draw: France wants America to fail in Iraq.

France wants America to sink in a quagmire there in the crazy hope that a weakened U.S. will pave the way for France to assume its 'rightful' place as America's equal, if not superior, in shaping world affairs.

All too true.


My Amanpour Story

I was in Haiti three years ago, visiting a Peace Corps friend. We were out driving, seeing the country, and it was quite hot. My friend mentioned that there is a foreign hotel near the airport with a beautiful pool on a balcony overlooking the hills. It sounded pretty good at the time, so we went there.

It turns out that this was where Amanpour stayed when she came to Haiti (you know, the proximity to the airport). It is a great place to drink and swim, with a wonderful view in the tropical breeze.

It's a shitty place to learn anything about Haiti.

Whenever there is unrest in Haiti, Amanpour stands on that balcony and reports on the violence. She doens't leave the hotel. Her "news" is second hand at best, conveyed to her by government big men who can afford to frequent the hotel.

Naturally, anyone who protests against Aristide's incredible corruption is a troublemaker funded by the old rich elites (but never the newly-enriched elites who work for Aristide and who talk to Amanpour). Yet, for some reason, she never credits her sources. If she did, it would sound terrible: "The wife of Interior Minister Hervrite said to me (over cocktails) that the protestors are a mixture of criminals and friends of (exiled former coup leader) Raoul Cedras. They want him to rule again and the cancel elections..."

The hotel employees laugh derisively when she signs off: "Christianne Amanpour, reporting from Port-au-Prince, Haiti."

The hotel is in Petionville. Port-au-Prince is twenty-five miles away. Twenty five miles is quite a distance on Haiti's terrible roads: it takes about an hour to travel (when it's not raining).


Train Sign

I saw this at a train stop recently:

Pregnant? We Can Help! Call XXX-XXX-XXXX

Scrawled below, in marker:

"Not Pregnant? I can help. Call Ed: XXX-XXX-XXXX."

I thought it was pretty clever.


Israeli Justice

If the Palestinians did this sort of thing, there might be a chance for peace in the region.

But they never do....

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Arafat's Fate

U.S. vetoes Arafat vote in U.N.:
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- The United States vetoed a U.N. resolution that would have demanded Israel halt threats to expel Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

Eleven of the 15 Security Council members voted for the resolution on Tuesday and three members abstained -- Britain, Bulgaria and Germany. The U.S. veto killed the resolution.

In the Middle East, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said: 'This is a sad day for the United Nations. I hope the U.S. veto will not be interpreted by Israel as a license to kill Yasser Arafat.' "

I hope the opposite....

How many times are we going to kiss this frog, hoping he will become a prince? His fingerprints are all over the arms smuggling, and when you translate his speeches into English, it is clear that he will never accept the mere existence of the state of Israel.

His corruption is well documented, and he is in knee deep with the terrorists. He claims he can ramp up terrorist attacks to achieve political outcomes that he finds favorable. The world ignores this, and allows him to use those ties to advance his cause. There is no chance that he will change his stripes no matter what incentives are offerred him. The act of offering him anything tells him that terrorism works.

The message of US foreign policy should be very simple: if you try to make political points by blowing up busses full of schoolchildren, you will lose. Badly.

Kill him, Israel. Just do it.


Saudi Arabia: More To Come?

September 16, 2003



FDR/LBJ Socialism

I have received several letters from a reader who wants me to believe that LBJ and FDR were socialists. It is unclear whether the writer himself is a socialist, wanting me to believe that socialism has been part of the American fabric for decades, or whether he himself thinks socialism is a quiet threat to the American way of life.

No matter.

I find the argument tedious, because it is like arguing about whether somebody was a little stupid or a full-fledged moron.

Socialism (and its close cousin communism) has been one of the most unquestionably disastrous experiments in human history. Its death toll is well into the hundreds of millions by now, and it is climbing (way to go, North Korea!). Wherever it is tried there are political prisoners and privileged elites. The more socialist characteristics an economy exhibits, the poorer it will be. It invariably leads to widespread corruption, and amazingly, it has failed on every continent and in every culture.

Yet, hundreds of failed experiments later, socialists endure. They are ridiculous figures, like people who want to wear clown outfits in public and forbid anyone from laughing at them. They tend to populate our universities, where ivory towers can protect them from the sound of giggling.

When this letter writer declared that these presidents were, in fact, socialists, I replied with the dictionary definition of socialism and said that they didn't fit the bill: socialism is the "public collective ownership or control of the means of production ,distribution and exchange, with the avowed aim of operating them for use and not profit." The difference btween socialism and communism is slight: substitute "state ownership" for "public collective ownership."

The definition is so stark, and so clearly a failure, that socialists have been retreating from it for the last two decades.

Now, they believe, socialism is any vestige of the nanny state in a CAPITALIST economy.

So naturally, they point to the glowing cities of Europe as the "future." They see caring governments and happy people (they don't see privately-owned businesses, making things that people actually want).

I look at Europe and I see the past: sluggish growth, stagnant economies and high unemployment. I see a continent whose entrepreneurial spirit is choked by union work rules and dumb laws, and a numbed populace that looks on passively while a huge bureaucracy puts on jackboots.

I also see a way of life that is unsustainable, one that will be washed away by a demographic tidal wave in the next twenty years.

In America, our future, while by no means secure, is also threatened. It is threatened by our own government's "socialist" obligations.

LBJ and FDR did, in fact, create huge governmental programs that will haunt us for the next fifty years.

These programs remove incentives for people to take care of themselves.

Social security, FDR's darling, is a demographic nightmare. By telling people that they were under no obligation to save for retirement, this program enabled baby boomers to spend thoughtlessly and save little: the average baby boomer is in his fifties and has less than $50,000 to retire on. I'm in my thirties and I have a lot more than that. I know there will be no social security for me, but I am painfully aware of the fact that I will be paying for this stupid program regardless.

Likewise, medicare told people that drug costs are someone else's responsibility (mine again...you're welcome). Naturally, those costs have skyrocketed. Everybody wants to go first class when the government is picking up the tab.

And of course, LBJ's welfare programs told the poor that poverty had nothing with them and everything to do with society. And over the last forty years, we have watched teenage birth rates, drug use and dropout rates go up. We have watched poor families erode (and the black family disintegrate). Poverty has gotten worse, entrenched and helpless, and now its almost impossible to "cure:" single moms beget single moms, and single moms almost always have lower household incomes than two parent families.

Of course, if you were to let the left go, things would only get worse: health care would become the sole responsibility of the state. So would housing. And food. And fuel...etc. And pretty soon the US would be as big a shithole as Cuba is.

No, LBJ and FDR were not socialists because they made these dumb programs. They just made stupid mistakes, mistakes that have ended up costing much more than they were supposed to.

But Ted Kennedy is as red - and as stupid - as you can get.....

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Network Shenanigans

CNN news chief Jim Walton had a "private converation" with reporter Christiane Amanpour after she accused her own network of being "intimidated" in its coverage of the Iraqi war.

Amanpour, a guest on last week's "Topic A with Tina Brown" on CNBC, set off shockwaves in the TV world over the weekend when she said she thought her employer, CNN, was "muzzled" in its war coverage by a combination of the White House and its competitive position with the higher-rated Fox News Channel.

"I think the press was muzzled, and I think the press self-muzzled," she said. "I'm sorry to say that, but certainly television and, perhaps, to a certain extent, my station, was intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News...."

A Fox News spokeswonman said: "It's better to be viewed as a foot soldier for Bush than spokeswoman for al-Qaeda."


Spokeswoman for Al Qaeda? Not that implausible when we remember that other CNN correspondent reporting from the CNN Baghdad bureau (and I don't mean Peter Arnett).


Is Bush To Blame?

Let's get one thing straight: I am not a big Bush fan. I think his foreign policy approach is the right one, but I think he has gone overboard with federal spending and future generations (me and my children) will pay for this. He shows signs of being a protectionist (which I abhor), and he is a little too cozy with his business associates and the Christian right.

But I will almost certainly vote for him anyway. The safety of my nation is paramount, and the Democrats have proven their incompetence in this regard (and come to think of it, they aren't fiscally responsible either). The Democrats have become the new isolationists.

I can be fair towards Bush, and I generally find him lacking. But some criticism of Bush is way overboard.

Jay at Shared Thought believes that the all powerful president had a choice between sluggish growth and a vibrant economy. He choose poorly, says Jay. He says that the jobless recovery has lasted much too long, and that high budget deficits and the high interest rates to which they might lead will hamper further recovery.

I agree with parts of what he says. But I don't believe that presidential policies have much effect on the economy. The money involved is too small as a percentage of GDP to have much effect (a 5% increase in federal spending (a spectacular amount) is only 1% of GDP). Presidential policies can have some effects, but they take longer than a presidential term to become manifest. The private economy is much larger than its federal component, and businesses don't usually take their cues from Washington.

And the fact is this: balanced budgets are virtually impossible in a recession. Naturally, revenue decreases and budgets are strained. Tax hikes are toxic to economic growth, and cutting spending doesn't help either (though of the two, cutting spending is the best route - Philadelphia has been trying to tax its way into a balanced budget for years, and it has destroyed its economy as a result).

Most industrialized economies are in worse (and more prolonged) recessions than we have faced in memory, and they are also deeply in the red. More evidence? All of the American states are currently facing
budget crunches, and most are in deficit as well. Some of the states in the red have particularly serious deficits: California and New Jersey come to mind.

The recession is global, and things are a lot better here than they are in Europe or Asia. The hangover from the '90's is not Bush's fault: a company doesn't think about the president's leadership when it decides to begin hiring personnel. It thinks about expenses, and likely payoffs.

Looking at history and blaming presidents for the economy is silly, and I don't do it:

I don't blame Carter for a poor economy. (I blame Carter for a disastrous foreign policy that put his country in danger by weakly trying to split the difference with people who want to kill us).

Likewise, I don't give Reagan credit for the economic boom of the 80's, but I feel he helped long term economic growth along by reducing the size of the state. (The state produces nothing; it only redistributes the available
wealth, sucking out a portion to feed an ever-growing bureaucracy. That isn't economic growth, it is mold).

But Bush has lost focus. His high spending is disastrous, and most of it has little to do with the war. Some make the argument that the government's financial straits will force the government to deal with the entitlements nightmare earlier than it would otherwise. Its impending bankruptcy, they believe, will encourage reform.

But that is reckless: it is a bit like a drunk drinking himself into poverty so that one day he won't have the money to buy booze.

But whenever I get fed up with Bush's spending, I only need to look at the Democrats: on every program, they want to spend MORE. They are more protectionist, and they are beholden to the NEA, AARP and the trial lawyers (who are responsible for the biggest problems in the US today). And they consider national defense to be an afterthought.

Is this the party of JFK? Or Robert Byrd?

Monday, September 15, 2003

What Media Bias?

The poll in Iraq.Here is Zogby's take. Here (in PDF form)are the actual questions, their answers and methodology.Here is how Zogby's website describes its own poll of the Iraqi people:
Iraq: better than you think

No matter what one might hear on the evening news, there is good news in Iraq. This week, the American Enterprise magazine and Zogby International released a poll of Iraqis that shows "seven out of 10 say they expect their country and their personal lives will be better five years from now."

Even more promising, as the American Enterprise reports, is that when "asked to name one country they would most like Iraq to model its new government on ... the most popular model by far was the U.S."

Sixty percent of Iraqis said they don't want an Islamic government. The overwhelming optimism and pro-American sentiment of Iraqis expose the discrepancy between the reality of the situation and the doomsday reports coming from most news outlets.

The survey reinforces the need for America to stay the course in Iraq.

The actual poll answers are optimistic, and the media is not reporting them. The media wants the world to believe that the US has blundered into a disaster, and that it desperately needs help to avoid "another Vietnam."

Here is how the Financial Times describes the same poll. And this is the story that the left believes:
Iraqis Do Not Trust Americans, Says Poll
by Guy Dinmore, Financial Times/UK
September 11th, 2003

Braving bullets, arrests and hot pursuit while carrying out the first scientific survey of Iraqi public opinion, pollsters commissioned by a conservative US think-tank have discovered that most Iraqis do not trust Americans and want to be left alone.

John Zogby, president of Zogby International which completed the poll last month, summed up the findings on Wednesday, saying that, like most Arabs, Iraqis want to "control their own destiny", without the intervention of outside forces, and are confident in their own ability.

"Now that tyranny is over," he said, "it is time to move forward but not as a colony."

And it only gets worse from there.

They even cherry pick Zogby's quotes. Shameful.

The New York Times would be capable of running a similar or even more extensive poll. But they do not. They do not mention the Zogby poll at all. Instead, they report from the most disgruntled region in Iraq, and they claim to know what all Iraqis think:

As the occupation enters its sixth month, however, (Iraqis) are looking for something, anything, they can hold in their hands that assures them that the future will be better — and they cannot find it.

The poll said the opposite. Who is trying to be scientific here?

In fact, here is the New York Times' own correspondent, describing his personal truce with the terror of the Hussien regime:

There were correspondents who thought it appropriate to seek the approbation of the people who governed their lives. This was the ministry of information, and particularly the director of the ministry. By taking him out for long candlelit dinners, plying him with sweet cakes, plying him with mobile phones at $600 each for members of his family, and giving bribes of thousands of dollars. Senior members of the information ministry took hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes from these television correspondents who then behaved as if they were in Belgium. They never mentioned the function of minders. Never mentioned terror.

And they've never had any desire to find out what Iraqis think either.

This is the most important foreign policy venture that the US has undertaken since Korea. And it is in danger of being damaged not in Iraq but in the US - by petty minded, unelected journalists who resent the US and its president. They have no plan other than encouraging chaos because it makes for good news, and they don't care if the world goes to hell in the process.


A Real Hero


Friday, September 12, 2003

UN sets Nuclear Deadline For Iran

Iran should be scared.

When the U.N. gets this angry, the resolutions can't be far behind. Like with Iraq: the UN showed Saddam. Twelve years and seventeen resolutions. They taught him good.


Saddam's Stone

Saddam has a magic stone around his neck that protects him from harm.

The most commonly held view in Baghdad is that Hussein wore a "magic" stone around his neck, which warded off assassins' bullets.

"It's all true about the magic stone," says car dealer Mokhaled Mohammed, sitting in a cafe on Baghdad's upmarket Arasat Street. "First of all, he put it on a chicken and tried to shoot it. Then he put it on a cow, and the bullets went around it."

Hey, that would convince me. Unless I knew Saddam was drunk.

"Deed see that, Uday? Hiccup! I missed dee cow! I never miss dee cow!"

This sounds like the movie "The Crow:" If we want to kill Hussein, we must first get the stone. It is from the stone that he gets power.

Without it, he will be powerless.

Anyone see Hussein hanging out with an Asian woman who gouges out people's eyes?

Thursday, September 11, 2003

September 11th, 2001

I remember the beauty of the day. I think everybody does, but for me, it was especially obvious because I was seeing it for nearly the first time. Our company had just moved us to a new site, and the new campus was especially nice in the crisp September morning air. When I was walking from my car, I was savoring the breeze coming in off the fields and the pond, and probably thinking about my commute – which in those days was quite hairy since I had not yet figured out how to avoid the traffic.

We were unpacking and setting up a chemistry laboratory, which is a laborious and boring process. We were listening to the radio as we worked, and the DJ’s at the local rock station (Y100 - a truly boring radio station) were trying to keep their audience entertained with their stupid anecdotes, anything to avoid playing music.

It was just before 9:00 when the one DJ told us that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. We looked at each other with confused looks. We thought that he meant a small plane, a Cessna or something, had crashed into the building. A coworker said that he thought that the area around the WTC was restricted airspace, and it seemed especially odd that an aircraft would be there. One of the DJ’s mentioned that he believed that it was large airliner.

Things moved quickly after that. The news director came in and they were describing the horrific scenes over the air when the second aircraft struck. Soon we heard that several aircraft were unaccounted for, and it was all a blur after that. I remembered dazed looking coworkers, one in shock and one thoroughly infuriated. A coworker came in looking happy, but her face fell when I told her what was going on.

I remember the shock of watching the collapse of the towers in a crowded conference room, as some anchorwoman screamed in fear at what she thought was a huge explosion. They were interviewing the fire chief just after the collapse: "Lord knows how many firefighters just lost their lives down there," he said.

I remember myself saying repeatedly “nothing like this has happened before…” over and over again – not noticing what an obvious and trite thing it was to say. I remember the fear when I could not call my wife, and my relief when I finally got through to her. I remember getting her when she was finally at home, safely with our young son, and I only wanted to be home with her. I remember calling my parents just to make sure that they were OK. It was a night where the TV was on continuously, and it was a night where I got almost no sleep.

A few days later, sadness had turned to anger. The Inquirer ran a cartoon that summarized my thoughts pretty well. It was a picture of bald eagle looking hurt by the world, while it methodically sharpened its claws.

Two years before, I had stayed in New York with my wife and another couple. We stayed at the Millennium (?) Hotel, which was right next to the WTC, and it practically looked into its windows. I remember thinking how silly it was to think that you could knock something that big down with a truck bomb.

A few weeks after 9/11, I was driving to a conference in New York, and we could see the city from the Garden State Parkway. There was still dusty smoke coming from ground zero. In the car, we talked about friends who had worked in the buildings and their near escapes.

A few weeks after that, I visited New York with my wife and son. There was a smoky, dusty smell in the air. It smelled like wet cement, but it was mingled with the smell of distant fire. As you got near the WTC, crowds increased and filed toward the site. Pictures of people who never came home were everywhere,and loved ones were begging for information. They all had put up phone numbers to call.

The site was walled off, and you could barely see anything. But people stood and stared anyway. Several cried.

When I was a baby, my parents held me up in front of the TV to watch Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. I held my boy up in front of the ruins of those buildings.

We can never forget why this happened.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

A Poll In Iraq

Don't expect to read this in the New York Times, or to hear it on NPR:

Working with Zogby International survey researchers, The American Enterprise magazine has conducted the first scientific poll of the Iraqi public...

• Iraqis are optimistic. Seven out of 10 say they expect their country and their personal lives will be better five years from now. On both fronts, 32% say things will become much better.

• The toughest part of reconstructing their nation, Iraqis say by 3 to 1, will be politics, not economics. They are nervous about democracy. Asked which is closer to their own view--"Democracy can work well in Iraq," or "Democracy is a Western way of doing things"--five out of 10 said democracy is Western and won't work in Iraq. One in 10 wasn't sure. And four out of 10 said democracy can work in Iraq. There were interesting divergences. Sunnis were negative on democracy by more than 2 to 1; but, critically, the majority Shiites were as likely to say democracy would work for Iraqis as not. People age 18-29 are much more rosy about democracy than other Iraqis, and women are significantly more positive than men.

• Asked to name one country they would most like Iraq to model its new government on from five possibilities--neighboring, Baathist Syria; neighbor and Islamic monarchy Saudi Arabia; neighbor and Islamist republic Iran; Arab lodestar Egypt; or the U.S.--the most popular model by far was the U.S. The U.S. was preferred as a model by 37% of Iraqis selecting from those five--more than Syria, Iran and Egypt put together. Saudi Arabia was in second place at 28%. Again, there were important demographic splits. Younger adults are especially favorable toward the U.S., and Shiites are more admiring than Sunnis. Interestingly, Iraqi Shiites, coreligionists with Iranians, do not admire Iran's Islamist government; the U.S. is six times as popular with them as a model for governance.

• Our interviewers inquired whether Iraq should have an Islamic government, or instead let all people practice their own religion. Only 33% want an Islamic government; a solid 60% say no. A vital detail: Shiites (whom Western reporters frequently portray as self-flagellating maniacs) are least receptive to the idea of an Islamic government, saying no by 66% to 27%. It is only among the minority Sunnis that there is interest in a religious state, and they are split evenly on the question.

• Perhaps the strongest indication that an Islamic government won't be part of Iraq's future: The nation is thoroughly secularized. We asked how often our respondents had attended the Friday prayer over the previous month. Fully 43% said "never." It's time to scratch "Khomeini II" from the list of morbid fears.

• You can also cross out "Osama II": 57% of Iraqis with an opinion have an unfavorable view of Osama bin Laden, with 41% of those saying it is a very unfavorable view. (Women are especially down on him.) Except in the Sunni triangle (where the limited support that exists for bin Laden is heavily concentrated), negative views of the al Qaeda supremo are actually quite lopsided in all parts of the country. And those opinions were collected before Iraqi police announced it was al Qaeda members who killed worshipers with a truck bomb in Najaf.

• And you can write off the possibility of a Baath revival. We asked "Should Baath Party leaders who committed crimes in the past be punished, or should past actions be put behind us?" A thoroughly unforgiving Iraqi public stated by 74% to 18% that Saddam's henchmen should be punished.

This new evidence on Iraqi opinion suggests the country is manageable. If the small number of militants conducting sabotage and murder inside the country can gradually be eliminated by American troops (this is already happening), then the mass of citizens living along the Tigris-Euphrates Valley are likely to make reasonably sensible use of their new freedom. "We will not forget it was the U.S. soldiers who liberated us from Saddam," said Abid Ali, an auto repair shop owner in Sadr City last month--and our research shows that he's not unrepresentative.

The media has a more scientific method: NPR's Anne Garrels will go to the most convenient anti-American protest, take readings with her Hate-O-MeterTM and report that anti-Americanism has intensified to its highest point ever.


What An Idiot

He almost shipped his parents his own dead body:Turbulence follows man who shipped himself by crate

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Gettysberg Power Point Presentation

I can't remember where I saw this first. But it always seems to come to mind whenever I end up in a long, dumb meeting:Gettysburg Cemetery Dedication


Not Nude Protesters Again!

If are these guys against something, I'm for it.

If only Mexico had the balls to handle these protesters in the British way.


Oh Please...

Paranoid toy execs and a lame film:Slip 'N Slide makers sue 'Dickie Roberts'

Monday, September 08, 2003

Beating Your Wife In the Correct Muslim Way

A primer for Muslim wife beating:

A recent book by Muhammad Kamal Mustafa, the imam of a mosque in southern Spain, has sparked controversy in that country. The book, 'Women in Islam,' describes how men should beat their wives, citing the Koranic verse: "And [as to] those on whose part you fear disobedience, admonish them, expel them from the bed, and beat them [4:34]..."

...[A critic said that] it would have been better to speak about the fact that Islam instructs us to be gradual [about wife-beating] - namely, first we are instructed to admonish the wife [for her disobedience, and if that doesn't work] to expel her from the bed, and only if that doesn't work either, to beat her...

"...Wife-beating cannot be explained in terms of necessity and non-painful methods when speaking with non-Muslims, and even with many Muslim women... Such justifications and explanations are unacceptable, because Western intellectuals are fundamentally opposed to the very principle of wife-beating.

Imagine that.


Why We Must Win

Amir Taheri: The Future of Iraq and The Arabian Peninsula After The Fall of Baghdad

Yussuf al-Ayyeri, was one of Bin Laden’s closest associates. A Saudi citizen, Al-Ayyeri, also known under the nom de guerre of Abu Muhammad, was killed in a gun-battle with security forces in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, last June.

Before his death, he wrote a book that is now being published for Al Qaeda:

What Al Ayyeri sees now is a “clean battlefield” in which Islam faces a new form of unbelief.

This, he labels: “secularist democracy”.

Al Ayyeri asserts that this new threat is “far more dangerous to Islam” than all its predecessors combined.

The reasons, he explains in a whole chapter, must be sought in democracy’s “seductive capacities.” This form of “unbelief” persuades the people that they are in charge of their destiny and that, using their collective reasoning, they can shape policies and pass laws as they see fit. That leads them into ignoring the “unalterable laws” promulgated by God for the whole of mankind, and codified in the Islamic Shariah ( jurisprudence) until the end of time.

The goal of democracy, according to Al Ayyeri, is to “make Muslims love this world, forget the next world, and abandon Jihad.” If established in any Muslim country for a reasonably long time, democracy could lead to economic prosperity which, in turn, would make Muslims “reluctant to die in martyrdom” in defence of their faith.


This Will Take A Long Time

George Will: Iraqi Democratic Vistas
You cannot tell after three months of an occupation how things will turn out. The Marshall Plan, she reminds, was a response to Europe's humanitarian and economic crisis three years after the war ended. That plan expressed the belief that if great-power wars were to end, there must be a different kind of Germany -- and Japan.

Reconstituting Iraq is in some ways more difficult than the tasks America took up in 1945. Both Germany and Japan had been rendered almost clean slates, politically -- thoroughly defeated by protracted war, their old elites had been destroyed. And as Henry Kissinger remembers, the obedience of Germans in the American, British and French occupation zones was encouraged by the example of the terrible alternative -- the Soviet zone.

Those who in 1991 favored going beyond the liberation of Kuwait to the capture of Baghdad cheerfully foresaw a ``MacArthur regency'' for Iraq akin to Gen. Douglas MacArthur's governance of Japan in 1945. But who would have played MacArthur?

In ``American Caesar,'' biographer William Manchester noted that MacArthur had lived in the Orient for decades, ``had studied Nipponese folklore, politics and economy; most of all he had pondered how (Emperor) Hirohito's people lived, worked and thought.'' When Hirohito suddenly repudiated what he called ``the false conception that the Emperor is divine and that the Japanese are superior to other races and fated to rule the world'' -- the myth for which 1.3 million soldiers and 672,000 civilians had died -- this created, MacArthur said, ``a complete vacuum, morally, mentally and physically.'' Apathy reigned.

Apathy is not the primary problem in Iraq. Rice wonders: What would it have been like reconstituting Germany and Japan in today's media environment, on a daily news cycle?

One might add: or with Iraq's kind of violence, which neither occupied Germany nor Japan knew in 1945.

Friday, September 05, 2003

Philly's Education Delusions

Apparently the sleuths in Philadelphia's education establishment are it again.

The problem in Philly's schools, they say, is that the city is not attracting or maintaining the best teachers.

Duh. But even dumber, they think that if they can solve that, the problem is solved. Wrong again. They're "thinking:" If we paid more, the best teachers would come to Philly, and our students would begin to excel. (Strange, but that is exactly what the teacher's union believes, too!).

I taught general chem at the college level for five years, and, for the most part, I enjoyed it. I am a young technical professional, but I would not mind teaching at the high school level for a few years, if for no other reason than to feel that I was helping things. Pay would not be huge concern if I felt I was doing good.

What holds me back? Three things.

1. I'd have to move and become a resident of Philly. Fuck that.

2. I'd have to spend money and time getting certified (and I am allergic to bullshit classes). Fuck that too.

3. I would be told how to do my job, and my job would be babysitting a bunch of undisciplined, little shits from broken homes. The idea that I would expect students to attend class and do homework would be challenged. I would be told to pass students who knew nothing, and not to rock the boat. Expecting kids to actually learn in such an environment is ridiculous.

No, Philly. Your problem is not your pay. Washington DC spends more money per student, and pays its teachers more; its schools are even worse.

The problem is that your schools are run by a bunch of bureaucrats who don't understand that the feeling of doing a job well is often more important then monetary compensation (bureaucrats rarely feel that way).

A job in Philly's schools is akin to asking a mason to build sandcastles. Each day he builds a masterpeice, but every night a high tide comes and washes it away. His bosses expect him to start from scratch each morning, happy to do it all again. And meanwhile, they invent rules forbidding him from using bricks or cement.

Teaching in Philly is an exercise in frustration. $150,000 a year wouldn't get me to take a job like that.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

A Blog Is Born

I was invited to join a group blog (thanks Chris!). It looks like a lot of fun: Who's The Anti-Christ?


That Had To Hurt


Only In Philly

A corrupt mayor's political machine "creates" a campaign using forged signatures. It is amateurish, using names like "Adam Bomb" and "Rusty Bedspring" on an election petition. (Ha! Ha!)

The opponent of the mayor complains, sues and the court case takes six months to be resolved. Lawyers dogfight over whether Mr. Bedspring or Mr. Bomb even exist. The silly local paper is mum about the details of the petition, making it look as though the mayor's opponent - who happens not to be Democrat (a requirement in Philly politics)- is a nitpicky bastard.

Eventually, the case goes against the mayor. One of his campaign workers throws a few firebombs, and destroys one his opponent's campaign offices.

The Mayor, unlikeable and corrupt, will win re-election anyway. Pretty easily.

Another year in Philly.

This is how the city got itself into such a shithole, and it is evidence that the mayor's political machine is still digging.


A Man's Got To Have A Trade

Work-Released Counterfeiter Accused in New Counterfeiting Scheme
Now if he could only get THE MAN off his back...

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Stupid German Legal System

I guess other countries have dumb legal systems, too: A German forced the social welfare system to pay for his Miami oceanview flat because living in Germany depressed him.


Weird Stories From Around The World

Swedish Flatulence Wins Man Big Money

Pubic Hair Transplants in South Korea

No comment on either story.


The NYT Is At It Again

In a fluffy piece about the French obsession for America and 9/11, the New York Times protects its gentle readers from the facts: French Feel the Anguish in Books Inspired by 9/11.

The article describes this nice French man and his nice book about 9/11:
Mr. (Frederic) Beigbeder's book is perhaps the most daring. He puts himself in the place of Carthew Yorston, a divorced real estate agent from Texas, who on the morning of Sept. 11 is breakfasting with his two young sons in Windows on the World, the restaurant on the 107th floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center. Each minute between 8:30 a.m. and 10:29 a.m. that day is recorded in a separate short chapter...

...In an interview with Elle magazine, though, he gave another reason for choosing this subject. "In the face of American self-censorship, I wanted to give form to this tragedy," he said, adding that American television viewers saw "an asceptic, almost clinical" version of events. He said he wanted "to reinject colors, smells, noises, to reintroduce the human dimension that has been carefully removed," adding, "A novel should enter forbidden territory."

Here's why the book is daring, and here's the "forbidden territory" (thanks to Merde In France):
In an excerpt from the book entitled 'Loving to death', published in a special edition of 'Technikart', the trapped office workers are portrayed as victims of the consumer society (and not as victims of those nice well behaved Muslim zealots) who decide to partake in some furious sex as their office burns and crumbles around them.

That's French "anguish" for you: an obscenity directed toward 3000 murdered people.

For the Times, this is probably just a detail. Disgusting.

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