Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year 2007

Wow, where has 2006 gone.

As you may have noticed, posting has been light lately. That will change in the coming year, as I will be getting much better internet access. Also, I intend to change my posting style; the big long wordy posts are going to be fewer in number and hopefully better in quality, and there will be more short posts on news of the moment. The goal is, a post a weekday. We'll see how it goes.

So until then, Happy New Year. See you in 2007.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne ?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand my trusty friend !
And give us a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

See you in 2007.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sounds the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

-- Robert Frost

Thursday, December 07, 2006

"Air Raid Pearl Harbor. This Is No Drill!"


On a bright Hawaiian morning, war came to the United States. In a matter of hours, the core of the American Pacific Fleet was destoyed, American air power in the Pacific destroyed, and American forces were under attack not only in Hawaii, but in Wake Island, Guam, Midway, and the Philipines.

John of Argghhh! remembers, as does Cdr. Salamander.

pearl harbor poster

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Losing the Enlightenment

Victor Davis Hanson, writing today in the the Wall Street Journal:

Losing the Enlightenment
A civilization that has lost confidence in itself cannot confront the Islamists.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST

Our current crisis is not yet a catastrophe, but a real loss of confidence of the spirit. The hard-won effort of the Western Enlightenment of some 2,500 years that, along with Judeo-Christian benevolence, is the foundation of our material progress, common decency, and scientific excellence, is at risk in this new millennium.

But our newest foes of Reason are not the enraged Athenian democrats who tried and executed Socrates. And they are not the Christian zealots of the medieval church who persecuted philosophers of heliocentricity. Nor are they Nazis who burned books and turned Western science against its own to murder millions en masse.

No, the culprits are now more often us. In the most affluent, and leisured age in the history of Western civilization--never more powerful in its military reach, never more prosperous in our material bounty--we have become complacent, and then scared of the most recent face of barbarism from the primordial extremists of the Middle East.

What would a beleaguered Socrates, a Galileo, a Descartes, or Locke believe, for example, of the moral paralysis in Europe? Was all their bold and courageous thinking--won at such a great personal cost--to allow their successors a cheap surrender to religious fanaticism and the megaphones of state-sponsored fascism?

Just imagine in our present year, 2006: plan an opera in today's Germany, and then shut it down. Again, this surrender was not done last month by the Nazis, the Communists, or kings, but by the producers themselves in simple fear of Islamic fanatics who objected to purported bad taste. Or write a novel deemed unflattering to the Prophet Mohammed. That is what did Salman Rushdie did, and for his daring, he faced years of solitude, ostracism, and death threats--and in the heart of Europe no less. Or compose a documentary film, as did the often obnoxious Theo Van Gogh, and you may well have your throat cut in "liberal" Holland. Or better yet, sketch a simple cartoon in postmodern Denmark of legendary easy tolerance, and then go into hiding to save yourself from the gruesome fate of a Van Gogh. Or quote an ancient treatise, as did Pope Benedict, and then learn that all of Christendom may come under assault, and even the magnificent stones of the Vatican may offer no refuge--although their costumed Swiss Guard would prove a better bulwark than the European police. Or write a book critical of Islam, and then go into hiding in fear of your life, as did French philosophy teacher Robert Redeker.

And we need not only speak of threats to free speech, but also the tangible rewards from a terrified West to the agents of such repression. Note the recent honorary degree given to former Iranian President, Mohammad Khatami, whose regime has killed and silenced so many, and who himself is under investigation by the Argentine government for his role in sponsoring Hezbollah killers to murder dozens of Jewish innocents in Buenos Aires.

There are many lessons to be drawn from these examples, besides that they represent a good cross-section of European society in Denmark, England, France, Germany, Holland, and Italy. In almost every case, the lack of public support for the threatened artist or intellectual or author was purportedly based either on his supposed lack of sensitivity, or of artistic excellence.

Van Gogh, it was said, was obnoxious, his films sometimes puerile. The academic Pope was perhaps woefully ignorant of public relations in the politically correct age. Were not the cartoons in Denmark amateurish and unnecessary? Rushdie was an overrated novelist, whose chickens of trashing the West he sought refuge in finally came home to roost. The latest Hans Neuenfels's adaptation of Mozart's "Idomeneo" was apparently as silly as it was cheaply sensationalist. And perhaps Robert Redeker need not have questioned the morality of Islam and its Prophet.

But isn't that fact precisely the point? It is easy to defend artists when they produce works of genius that do not challenge popular sensibilities--Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" or Montesquieu's "Spirit of the Laws"--but not so when an artist offends with neither the taste of a Michelangelo nor the talent of a Dante. Yes, Pope Benedict is old and scholastic; he lacks both the charisma and tact of the late Pope John Paul II, who surely would not have turned for elucidation to the rigidity of Byzantine scholarship. But isn't that why we must come to the present Pope's defense--if for no reason other than because he has the courage to speak his convictions when others might not?

Note also the constant subtext in this new self-censorship of our supposedly liberal age: the fear of radical Islam and its gruesome methods of beheadings, suicide bombings, improvised explosive devices, barbaric fatwas, riotous youth, petrodollar-acquired nuclear weapons, oil boycotts and price hikes, and fist-shaking mobs, as the seventh century is compressed into the twenty-first.

In contrast, almost daily in Europe, "brave" artists caricature Christians and Americans with impunity. And we know what explains the radical difference in attitudes to such freewheeling and "candid" expression--indeed, that hypocrisy of false bravado, of silence before fascists and slander before liberals is both the truth we are silent about, and the lie we promulgate.

There is, in fact, a long list of reasons, among them most surely the assurance that cruel critics of things Western rant without being killed. Such cowards puff out their chests when trashing an ill Oriana Fallaci or a comatose Ariel Sharon or beleaguered George W. Bush in the most demonic of tones, but they prove sunken and sullen when threatened by a thuggish Dr. Zawahiri or a grand mufti of some obscure mosque.

Second, almost every genre of artistic and intellectual expression has come under assault: music, satire, the novel, films, academic exegesis, and education. Somehow Europeans have ever so insidiously given up the promise of the Enlightenment that welcomed free thought of all kinds, the more provocative the better.

Yes, the present generation of Europeans really is heretical, made up of traitors of a sort. They themselves, not just their consensual governments, or the now-demonized American Patriot Act and Guantanamo detention center, or some invader across the Mediterranean, have endangered their centuries-won freedoms of expression--and out of worries over oil, or appearing as illiberal apostates of the new secular religion of multiculturalism, or another London or Madrid bombing. We can understand why outnumbered Venetians surrendered Cyprus to the Ottomans, and were summarily executed, or perhaps why the 16th-century French did not show up at Lepanto, but why this vacillation of present-day Europeans to defend the promise of the West, who are protected by statute and have not experienced war or hunger?

Third, examine why all these incidents took place in Europe, where more and more the state guarantees the good life even into dotage, where the here and now has become a finite world for soulless bodies, where armies devolve into topics of caricature, and children distract from sterile adults' ever-increasing appetites. So, it was logical that Europe most readily of Westerners would abandon the artist and give up the renegade in fear of religious extremists who brilliantly threatened not destruction, but interruption of the good life, or the mere charge of illiberality. Never was the Enlightenment sold out so cheaply.

We on this side of Atlantic also are showing different symptoms of this same Western malaise, but more likely through heated rhetoric than complacent indifference--given the events of September 11 that galvanized many, while disappointing liberals that past appeasement had created monsters rather than mere confused, if not dangerous rivals. The war on terror has turned out to be the torn scab that has exposed a deep wound beneath, of an endemic Western self-loathing--and near mania that our own superior education and material wealth have not eliminated altogether the need for force and coercion.

Consider some of the recent rabid outbursts by once sober, old-guard politicians of the Democratic Party. West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller insists that the world would be better off if Saddam were still running Iraq. Congressman John Murtha, of Pennsylvania, rushed to announce that our Marines were guilty of killing Iraqis in "cold blood" before they were tried. Illinois Senator Richard Durbin has compared our interrogators at Guantanamo Bay to Nazis and mass murderers, while Massachusetts Senator John Kerry said our soldiers have "terrorized" Iraqi women and children. The same John Kerry warned young Americans to study or they would end up in the volunteer army in Iraq--even though today's soldiers have higher educational levels than does the general public. But furor as well as fear, not logic, drives us in West to seek blame among the humane among us rather than the savagery of our enemies.

Billionaire leftist philanthropists seem to be confused about the nature of American society and politics that gave them everything they so sumptuously enjoy. Ted Turner of CNN fame and fortune said he resented President Bush asking Americans, after 9/11, to take sides in our war against Islamic terrorists. George Soros claimed that President Bush had improved on Nazi propaganda methods. Dreaming of killing an elected president, not a mass-murdering Osama Bin Laden, is a new national pastime. That is the theme of both a recent docudrama film and an Alfred Knopf book.

What are the proximate causes here in America that send liberal criticism over the edge into pathological hysteria? Is it only that George Bush is a singular polarizing figure of Christian and Texan demeanor? Or is the current left-wing savagery also a legacy of the tribal 1960s, when out-of-power protestors felt that expressions of speaking bluntly, even crudely, were at least preferable to "artificial" cultural restraint?

Or does the anger stem from the fact, that until last week, the Democrats had not elected congressional majorities in 12 years, and they've occupied the White House in only eight of the last 26 years. The left's current unruliness seems a way of scapegoating others for a more elemental frustration--that without scandal or an unpopular war they cannot so easily gain a national majority based on European-based beliefs. More entitlements, higher taxes to pay for them, gay marriage, de facto quotas in affirmative action, open borders, abortion on demand, and radical secularism--these liberal issues, at least for the moment, still don't tend to resonate with most Americans and so must be masked by opponents' scandals or overshadowed by a controversial war.

Just as the Europeans are stunned that their heaven on earth has left them weak and afraid, so too millions of Americans on the Left are angry that their own promised moral utopia is not so welcomed by the supposedly less educated and bright among them. But still, what drives Westerners, here and in Europe, to demand that we must be perfect rather than merely good, and to lament that if we are not perfect we are then abjectly bad--and always to be so unable to define and then defend their civilization against its most elemental enemies?

There has of course always been a utopian strain in both Western thought from the time of Plato's "Republic" and the practice of state socialism. But the technological explosion of the last 20 years has made life so long and so good, that many now believe our mastery of nature must extend to human nature as well. A society that can call anywhere in the world on a cell phone, must just as easily end war, poverty, or unhappiness, as if these pathologies are strictly materially caused, not impoverishments of the soul, and thus can be materially treated.

Second, education must now be, like our machines, ever more ambitious, teaching us not merely facts of the past, science of the future, and the tools to question, and discover truth, but rather a particular, a right way of thinking, as money and learning are pledged to change human nature itself. In such a world, mere ignorance has replaced evil as our challenge, and thus the bad can at last be taught away rather than confronted and destroyed.

Third, there has always been a cynical strain as well, as one can read in Petronius's "Satyricon" or Voltaire's "Candide." But our loss of faith in ourselves is now more nihilistic than sarcastic or skeptical, once the restraints of family, religion, popular culture, and public shame disappear. Ever more insulated by our material things from danger, we lack all appreciation of the eternal thin veneer of civilization.

We especially ignore among us those who work each day to keep nature and the darker angels of our own nature at bay. This new obtuseness revolves around a certain mocking by elites of why we have what we have. Instead of appreciating that millions get up at 5 a.m., work at rote jobs, and live proverbial lives of quiet desperation, we tend to laugh at the schlock of Wal-Mart, not admire its amazing ability to bring the veneer of real material prosperity to the poor.

We can praise the architect for our necessary bridge, but demonize the franchise that sold fast and safe food to the harried workers who built it. We hear about a necessary hearing aid, but despise the art of the glossy advertisement that gives the information to purchase it. And we think the soldier funny in his desert camouflage and Kevlar, a loser who drew poorly in the American lottery and so ended up in Iraq--our most privileged never acknowledging that such men with guns are the only bulwark between us and the present day forces of the Dark Ages with their Kalashnikovs and suicide belts.

So we are on dangerous ground. History gives evidence of no civilization that survived long as purely secular and without a god, that put its trust in reason alone, and believed human nature was subject to radical improvement given enough capital and learning invested in the endeavor. The failure of our elites to amplify their traditions they received, and to believe them to be not merely different but far better than the alternatives, is also a symptom of crisis in all societies of the past, whether Demosthenes' Athens, late imperial Rome, 18th-century France, or Western Europe of the 1920s. Nothing is worse that an elite that demands egalitarianism for others but ensures privilege for itself. And rarely, we know, are civilization's suicides a result of the influence of too many of the poor rather than of the wealthy.

But can I end on an optimistic note in tonight's tribute to Winston Churchill, who endured more and was more alone than we of the present age? After the horror of September 11, we in our sleep were also given a jolt of sorts, presented with enemies from the Dark Ages, the Islamic fascists who were our near exact opposites, who hated the Western tradition, and, more importantly, were honest and without apology in conveying that hatred of our liberal tolerance and forbearance. They arose not from anything we did or any Western animosity that might have led to real grievances, but from self-acknowledged weakness, self-induced failure, and, of course, those perennial engines of war, age-old envy and lost honor--always amplified and instructed by dissident Western intellectuals whose unhappiness with their own culture proved a feast for the scavenging Al-Qaedists.

By past definitions of relative power, al-Qaeda and its epigones were weak and could not defeat the West militarily. But their genius was knowing of our own self-loathing, of our inability to determine their evil from our good, of our mistaken belief that Islamists were confused about, rather than intent to destroy, the West, and most of all, of our own terror that we might lose, if even for a brief moment, the enjoyment of our good life to defeat the terrorists. In learning what the Islamists are, many of us, and for the first time, are also learning what we are not. And in fighting these fascists, we are to learn whether our freedom can prove stronger than their suicide belts and improvised explosive devices.

So we have been given a reprieve of sorts with this war, to regroup; and, in our enemies, to see our own past failings and present challenges; and to rediscover our strengths and remember our origins. We can relearn that we are not fighting for George Bush or Wal-Mart alone, but also for the very notion of the Enlightenment--and, yes, in the Christian sense for the good souls of those among us who have forgotten all that as they censor cartoons and compare American soldiers to Nazis.

So let me quote Winston Churchill of old about the gift of our present ordeal:

"These are not dark days: these are great days--the greatest days our country has ever lived."

Never more true than today.

Mr. Hanson is a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution, a distinguished fellow of Hillsdale College, and author most recently of "A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War." This article is adapted form a speech he delivered at the Claremont Institute's annual dinner in honor Sir Winston Churchill.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Two Days Later

Well, the elections have been over for roughly 36 hours now, and the Democratic Party has taken majorities in both the House and Senate.

Rumsfeld is out as SecDef; that happened yesterday.

What's going to change, I don't know.

This isn't the outcone I was hoping for, but it was not unexpected. The Republicans did their best this past two years to annoy everybody. They brought this defeat on themselves.

The interesting thing to see is what changes will manifest in the two parties now. Most of the freshman Democrats are more conservative than candidates of years past, but the people who will be ascending to the high-profile leadership and committee positions are members of the liberal idealogue old guard. The Congress will move to the left - but how far? And keep this in mind - Congress doesn't have to do anything to raise taxes. The four years of a Republican-controlled government never did succeed in making the Bush tax cuts permanent.

And the Republicans are going to have to sort themselves out. I think this election was a repudiation of "big government conservatism" - but will the party leadership take the hint?

What this was not was a debate on our course in Iraq. Because no alternative was offered, just complaints.

We shall see...

Monday, November 06, 2006


Appearing in the Washington, D.C. Examiner over the weekend:
Editorial: Sleepwalking into the gathering storm?
The Washington DC Examiner Newspaper, The Examiner
Nov. 6, 2006

WASHINGTON - “You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.” — Winston Churchill, speech in the House of Commons, May 13, 1940

Midterm elections are when voters decide whether they made the right choices last time. And except for 1994, when Newt Gingrich led Republicans to their present majority status, voters have been largely satisfied. Since WWII, the average midterm gain in the House of Representatives has been just 25 seats.

But something feels different this time. In the most expensive mid-term election in U.S. history, leading national Democrats are conspicuous by their silence on the defining issue of our era: the war on terrorism. Instead of laying out their plans in detail for voters to assess, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have in recent weeks stepped back into the shadows and watched as President Bush has endured blow after blow from the mainstream media and other precincts of America’s almost-uniformly liberal and Democrat elites. When they should be proclaiming at least one great idea, these critics offer only a corrosive “Blame America, Blame Bush” litany of bitterness.

The result is Americans know too little of what Democrats will do should Tuesday’s voting return them to majority status in either or both chambers of Congress. In making Bush the focus of the campaign, however, Reid, Pelosi and company still cannot avoid this stark fact: America is under attack here at home and abroad by Islamic facists who killed thousands of us on Sept. 11 and who intend the deaths of millions more of us in the future.

This is indeed another time for choosing. Embattled Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., said it well in a recent speech. “The war is at our doorsteps and it is fueled, figuratively and literally, by Islamic fascism nurtured and bred in Iran, “ Santorum warned. “… Many Americans are sleepwalking, just as they did before the world wars of the last century. They pretend it is not happening, that it all has to do with the errors of a single American administration, even of a single American president. … It’s time to wake up.”

If Santorum is right, the United States teeters on the brink of a war with 52,000 suicide terrorists currently being trained in Iran, hostile regimes in both Asia and the Middle East moving steadily to secure nuclear weapons, and a million-man army being assembled by a belligerent South American dictator. We have to wake up.

It is true that, despite a booming economy for which they get curiously little credit, Bush and the Republican majority in Congress have often been a disappointment. Massive deficits and secretive earmarks have made a mockery of the GOP’s traditional claim to fiscal austerity. Add congressional ethics scandals, the administration’s mishandling of Hurricane Katrina, and its failure to control the nation’s borders during its six years in power and it’s no wonder that many voters are confused, discouraged and in the mood to deliver a stinging rebuke at the polls.

But we must remember that, as America faces a mortal threat, too many Democrats who would lead us have not yet demonstrated that they recognize our peril. We know only that they have urged withdrawal from Iraq, but are always vague about what happens after that. And they have consistently opposed every means of intelligence-gathering that has clearly prevented new terrorist attacks and thus saved countless lives.

Despite Bush’s missteps and his low approval ratings, Iraq remains a crucial battlefield in a worldwide struggle between America with its democratic values and Islamic Fascism. Only one side can win. Are Americans willing to commit to “victory at all costs,” as Churchill urged his fellow Britons in their epic struggle, or will we join the Democrats who ignore the gathering storm clouds ahead?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Insolent Kerry

"Sir, the insolence of wealth will creep out."
Samuel Johnson, as related by John Derbyshire
The picture
says it all, really.

Halp Us Jon Carry

But I suppose I should start with the comment that set this firestorm off:

“You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”
Victor Davis Hanson delivered this devastating rejoinder:

Kerry surely must be one of the saddest Democratic liabilities around. Some afterthoughts about his latest gaffe, which is one of those rare glimpses into an entire troubled ideology...

The Democrats should use this occasion to have an autopsy of Kerryism, or this strange new tony liberalism, that has turned noblisse oblige on its head. It used to be that millionaire FDRs and JFKs felt sympathy for those of the lower classes and wished to ensure that the hoi polloi had some shot at the American dream. But today's elite liberals-a Howard Dean, Al Gore, Ted Kennedy, George Soros, Ted Turner-love the high life and playact at being leftists simply because they are already insulated from the effects of their own nostrums that always come at someone poorer's expense while providing them some sort of psychological relief from guilt. Poor Harry Truman must be turning over in his grave-from bourbon, cigars, and poker to wind-surfing and L.L. Bean costume of the day says it all.
But, as usual, Jonah Goldberg had the funniest take:

Kerry Can't Apologize [Jonah Goldberg]
If you take Kerry's two statements — the written and unwritten — in their entirety, I really don't think he can apologize at this point. I really do think he could have defused this whole thing, maybe not entirely, by simply saying "I botched the joke and I'm really sorry it sounded like I was diminishing the talent and work of our troops, something I would never do. I take a back seat to no one in my respect for blah blah blah..." But now he's questioned the sanity, the integrity and the manliness of anybody who could have possibly taken him the wrong way. That means, in effect, that he's calling all these servicemen who understandably took offense at the plain meaning of his words, wusses and nutters. That makes Kerry a tool of the first order. And, if he apologizes now, with some Gilda Radneresque "never mind," it will once again reinforce his metaphysical toolishness. The guy thinks he can be president and he thinks he's doing what the "fighting Dem" base wants him to do. The problem is he has basically radiated himself with the isotope Asinine-90 and the only way the rest of his party can protect itself from radition poisoning is to sequester the guy in some lime-pit for 10,000 years until his asininity half-life deterioates to managable levels.
Posted at 9:24 AM
And John and Bill and Argghhh!!! have some more to say as well, here and here. They take it a little more personally, and for good reason.

Tyler's Take

So why all the fuss and bother?

Well, because the real John Kerry showed up. Not in the initial speech; a joke gone bad would be plausible.

It was his later statement (John at Argghhh!!! reproduces Kerry's whole speech here):
"The people who owe our troops an apology are George W. Bush and Dick Cheney who misled America into war and have given us a Katrina foreign policy that has betrayed our ideals, killed and maimed our soldiers, and widened the terrorist threat instead of defeating it."
Sen. John Kerry, D-MA, Oct. 31, 2006
That doesn't quite read like an apology to me, even though that's what the situation demanded. Kerry would have endured a little abuse, but the story would have been over.

Instead, Kerry tried to play the "vast right-wing conspiracy is out to get me" card, relying on the usual suspects to cover for him. He failed; instead, he yet again revealed his true character, and managed to make himself the biggest story of the election season, with less than a week to go. For all Kerry's supposed smarts, he's not too clever.

Since then, Mr. Kerry has made a more sincere apology (two days later), but it doesn't erase what has happened. Because the man who uttered these words is the real John Kerry, the man who would be king was the 2004 Democratic nominee for President of the United States. He deserved to lose; this is confirmation.

See, it's a little hard for us hicks here in flyover country to overcome our prejudices when you so vigorously reinforce them, Mr. Kerry.

You really are a pretentious, obnoxious, blue-blooded New England snob, a personification of the condesending rich Yankee liberal. They can keep you.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween

When hinges creak in doorless chambers,

When candles flicker, where the air is deathly still...

This is the time when ghosts are present...

Happy Halloween...

And beware of hitch-hiking ghosts!

The Shadowlands
The Moonlit Road
Halloween Ghost Stories
Haunted Mansion

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Seen At The Corner: Truth to Power

Jonah Goldberg, writing at The Corner:
Studio 60 [Jonah Goldberg]
No, I didn't watch it last night. I had the option of watching a squirrel groom himself, so I went with that. But I hear that Aaron Sorkin bravely spoke truth to power about the Hollywood blacklist last night. Thank God someone in the artistic community finally had the courage to tackle this taboo subject after nearly 60 years. Posted at
10:05 AM

Not Dead, Just Busy

I apologize for the lack of postings lately. Work has kept me hopping, and I spent most of my free time last week preparing a talk.

So, I'm not dead, just busy.

Friday, October 13, 2006

TFFQ: In Defense of New England

Questus Furore - In Defense of New England
In light of Nate's trip (as he reported Tuesday), I just have to add the following: New Jersey is not part of "New England."

Actually, no one wants to claim it.

Questus Quickie - Nuclear NorKs
Well, he of the Don King hair claims to have tested a nuclear weapon.

While the exact implications of the test, and whether the explosion was an actual nuclear weapon, remain unclear, one would think this event would serve as a great focusing agent on the national debate, what with the election just over three weeks away and all.

But the debate is still focused on the dalliances of an already-departed Congressman.

Questus Quickie - Please Read
I realize many of my links just aren't that interesting. But please read Jonah Goldberg's "Liberal Paranoia." This is a growing problem, and will be with us for at least the next couple of elections. Check out the "current events" section of the bookstore - this stuff is everywhere.

Recommended Reading
VDH, "Do We Have a Strategy?"

"Dynamic Capitalism" - a well-written, much-needed defense of the capitalist economy.

Andrew McCarthy, "The Culture of Obstructionism."

A Jonah Goldberg two-fer: "Liberal Paranoia" and "When Multilateralism Falls Short."

As you may recall, I'm not a fan of George Soros. He has an iunternationalist, socialist agenda that I completely oppose. And he has made himself one of the biggest power brokers in the Democratic Party. Ed Whelan reports on "George Soros' Two Left Hands."

Kansas is crazier than you thought.

I'm reading Mark Steyn's new book; you can find a review here.

Thought(s) of the Week
“I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm’s way.”
John Paul Jones

“A society that does not recognize that each individual has values of his own which he is entitled to follow can have no respect for the dignity of the individual and cannot really know freedom.”
Fredrich August von Hayek

Churchill Quote of the Week
"The price of greatness is responsibility. If the people of the United States had continued in a mediocre station, struggling with the wilderness, absorbed in their own affairs, and a factor of no consequence in the movement of the world, they might have remained forgotten and undisturbed beyond their protecting oceans: but one cannot rise to be in many ways the leading community in the civilised world without being involved in its problems, without being convulsed by its agonies and inspired by its causes.

"If this has been proved in the past, as it has been, it will become indisputable in the future. The people of the United States cannot escape world responsibility."

Sir Winston Churchill, "The Price Of Greatness"

Friday, October 06, 2006

TFFQ: The Threat Has Changed

Questus Furore - The Threat Has Changed, Again

The mind boggles at the events of the past two weeks.

First the man from Denver, who walked into a high school in Bailey, Colorado (basically the equivalent of a man from Salt Lake walking into a school in Oakley, UT), taking a classroom hostage, sending out the teacher and boys, then proceeding to molest the girls left inside. (What exactly he did has not been made clear. I'm not sure if I want to know.) When police reacted, he shot at his hostages, then killed himself, but not before mortally wounding 16-year-old Emily Keyes. Having violated her honor, he then stole her life.

Less than a week later, another one, this time in the heart of Amish country. This attacker had grand plans - but the police arrived too soon. So he attempted to execute his ten hostages, then killed himself. So far, five of his victims have died, and the survival of two more is in question. All were girls, ranging in age from seven to thirteen. Four of them were laid to rest yesterday, the fifth today.

Just as Columbine forced a reassessment in how we look at our security, so these events are forcing another. Once again the threat has changed; where once the worry was basically children escalating their conflicts to the point of violence, now the danger has arrived in the form of well-armed adult sexual predators, seeking to fulfill one last fantasy before ending it all.

The threat has changed again. Now police no longer even have time to wait for the SWAT team.

Perhaps too, this should force another look at how we approach sexual predators in our society. Can those urges ever be suppressed, or will they simply build pressure until the mind erupts? Once we have caught them, can we let them go?

I don't know the answers to any of these questions. But we had better start thinking about them.

Recommended Reading
Susan Konig, "The End of Innocence."

Victor Davis Hanson, "Traitors to the Enlightenment."

Jim Geraghty, "The Other Shoe That Dropped."

TKS - "How Long Until The Clash of Civilizations Becomes a Campaign Issue?"

Thought of the Week
"A kind Providence has placed in our breasts a hatred of the unjust and cruel, in order that we may preserve ourselves from cruelty and injustice. They who bear cruelty, are accomplices in it. The pretended gentleness which excludes that charitable rancour, produces an indifference which is half an approbation. They never will love where they ought to love, who do not hate where they ought to hate."
Edmund Burke, Letters on Regicide Peace, 1796.

Churchill Quote of the Week
"All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope."
Sir Winston Churchill

Monday, September 25, 2006

Romney Courts Social Conservatives

John Fund, writing in today's Wall Street Journal:

Romney Rides High
A Mormon from Massachusetts wows social conservatives.
Monday, September 25, 2006 12:01 a.m.

WASHINGTON--Right now John McCain is the front-runner for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination. But everyone expects that a single major competitor will emerge to challenge him from the right. The question hung in the air of this past weekend's Family Research Council summit in Washington: Who will that candidate be for the GOP's powerful social conservative base?

FRC officials says they invited Mr. McCain to speak, but he declined. But another potential candidate benefited greatly from showing up. Surprisingly, it was Massachusetts' Gov. Mitt Romney, a Mormon with a Harvard M.B.A who governs the nation's most liberal state. The 1,800 delegates applauded him frequently during his Friday speech and gave him a standing ovation afterward. Mr. Romney detailed his efforts to block court-imposed same-sex marriage in the Bay State and noted that the liberal Legislature has failed to place a citizen-initiated referendum on the ballot. He excoriated liberals for supporting democracy only when they think that the outcome is a foregone conclusion that favors their views. He certainly picked up fans at the summit. "I believe Mitt Romney may be the only hope social conservatives have in 2008," says Maggie Gallagher, author of a book defending traditional marriage.

The tall barrier many see as blocking his acceptance by evangelical voters--the fact that many Americans view Mormonism with suspicion or worse--may prove to be a mirage. "Everyone I talked to said they didn't have a problem with it," one attendee told me. "If enough people say that to each other, Romney creates a virtuous circle in which evangelical activists decide he's acceptable." Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition, notes that something similar has happened in recent years as devout Catholic and evangelical Protestants have increasingly focused on areas of agreement. "Romney won't be the ideal choice for evangelicals, but against a McCain in the primary or a Hillary Clinton in the general election there's no doubt where most would go," he says.

Recently, the person most likely to be viewed as the conservative alternative to John McCain would have been Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist or Sen. George Allen of Virginia. But Mr. Frist has lost support as he has failed to herd the unruly cats of the Senate and been viewed as a Washington insider. As for Mr. Allen, he was welcomed by delegates, who sympathized with the hazing he's gotten over his use of the term "macaca" to describe an Indian-American working for his opponent. Almost no one seemed to care about the recent discovery of his Jewish ancestry. But Mr. Allen has clearly suffered from his accident-prone Senate re-election campaign. One noted that he has gone from twice being named the front-runner for the 2008 nomination in National Journal's semi-annual poll of 100 GOP "insiders" to being a beleaguered incumbent in his home state. Now he's even facing fire from the right. "I'm disappointed Sen. Allen has chosen to attack [Democratic opponent] Jim Webb for once opposing inappropriate roles for women in the military," says Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness. "He's pandering and panicking."

Other social conservatives addressed the FRC summit and received warm greetings. They included Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and former speaker Newt Gingrich. But for now all are viewed as either too little known or carrying too much baggage to win the nomination. That said, Mr. Gingrich was given a rock star's welcome at the summit's closing banquet. "He is on Fox News so much that conservatives have forgotten his fall from power and now think of him as a statesman," says Fred Johnson, a prominent social conservative from Iowa. "When he said the U.S. was now in World War III against terrorism, every talk show ran with it."

Mr. Romney's can't match Mr. Gingrich's rhetorical flair or Mr. Huckabee's down-home homilies. But he impressed three separate and distinct audiences in Washington last week in a 24-hour speaking blitz. On Thursday about one out of eight House Republicans came to hear him address a weekly luncheon hosted by Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia. Mr. Kingston told the Boston Globe that Mr. Romney made a very positive impression and was clearly positioning himself for the role opposite Mr. McCain that Mr. Allen once occupied.

Immediately afterward, Mr. Romney went across town to address a group of K Street lobbyists and economic conservatives. "He was impressive in explaining how he governed as a conservative in Ted Kennedy's home state," said columnist Robert Novak. The next morning, Mr. Romney appeared before the Family Research Council's summit. "He won over a lot of people when he recalled how as a businessman he had rescued the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City," says Chris Butler of Americans For Tax Reform.

That experience helped solidify Mr. Romney's reputation as a can-do manager who knows how to delegate. "He is the only elected official I've met with who gave me a detailed power-point briefing on my area of expertise," says Bob Moffit, a health-care expert at the Heritage Foundation who worked with Mr. Romney to craft a law mandating that everyone in Massachusetts buy health insurance.

That's not to say Mr. Romney doesn't have critics back home. Even Romney allies acknowledge that should Democrat Deval Patrick win this fall's gubernatorial race to succeed the retiring Mr. Romney, his health-care plan could become a bureaucratic nightmare. Larry Cirignano, the head of the Boston-based group Catholic Citizenship, faults Mr. Romney for not allowing local officials to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples. He also criticizes the governor for reversing a decision to replace a state advisory commission on gay and lesbian youth with one representing all youth. Only a few hours after the announcement, Mr. Romney changed his mind. Commission chairman Kathleen Myers said she is convinced he reversed course after being "inundated" with protest calls. "It wasn't a profile in courage from a conservative's point of view," notes Mr. Cirignano.

But sniping from his home state isn't the greatest challenge facing Mr. Romney. While he is well known in the early primary state of New Hampshire, he still has scant organization in Iowa, which will vote before New Hampshire. Reporters will continue to dog him over his position on abortion. Mr. Romney says he is now "very firmly pro-life" after having frequently expressed pro-choice views. Last year, Mike Murphy, a strategist for his 2002 governor's race, raised further questions when he told National Review that, all along, Mr. Romney has been "a pro-life Mormon faking it as a pro-choice friendly." Mr. Romney said Mr. Murphy was speaking only for himself.

But Mr. Romney also has many advantages. He is perhaps the only candidate who can plausibly claim a base in several states. He has a contributor base in Massachusetts; a large reservoir of political goodwill in Michigan, where he was born and his father served as governor in the 1960s; and the loyalty of many Mormons in Utah and neighboring states. He has a built-in corps of volunteers and contributors in any state where Mormons, the fastest-growing religion in America, have a real presence.

And then there is the charisma and poise that Mr. Romney seems to exude naturally. "Many people say he certainly looks like a president--sort of a cross between Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy," says Genevieve Wood, who founded the conservative Center for a Just Society. Anyone who draws comparisons to those political genes merits further watching.

[Back to RomneyWatch '08.]

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Last Tomcat Stands Down

Today the Navy officially retired the F-14 Tomcat.
Its mission was to protect the carrier battle group from hostile aircraft. With its twin engines, the all-weather-capable Tomcat could more than get the job done, flying at twice the speed of sound, and carrying Phoenix, Sidewinder and Sparrow missiles and a 20 mm Gatling gun. In addition, the Tomcat had a vast array of air-to-ground ordnance, making it much more than simply a defensive weapon.
And it has served in that role well for over thirty years, the Tomcat's first operational deployment occurring in September 1974. They saw service in the skies over Vietnam (covering the evacuation of Saigon), Libya, Iraq, and countless other intercepts and incidents that make up the untold story of the Cold War. Now, they're gone.
Then, the Tomcat Sunset weekend highlight will take place Friday at 10 am, with the Final Flight Ceremony at hangar 500. It will end, appropriately enough, with the final F-14 flying off into the distance. The Navy says the aircraft will likely be bound for the Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, where it and other retiring Tomcats will be stored in the "boneyard," or, as it is officially designated, "war reserve."

F-14 from VF-84 "Jolly Rogers" prepares for launch. Picture from

One of the premier fighters in the history of aviation, and the most storied fighter in the U.S. inventory, has returned from deployment for the last time.

The F-14 Tomcat, a swing-wing twin-engined fighter-interceptor, is slated for retirement as the last active-duty squadrons still flying the F-14 returned to Oceana Naval Air Station. The squadrons will be re-equipped with the F/A-18 Super Hornet.

That would be despite the fact that the F-14 is still a better fighter. The problem is age - the F-14 has been in active service since 1973; the F-18 design is a good ten years younger, while the Super Hornet design is younger still, with models not entering service until the early 1990s. Older planes need more maintenance time. The maintenance demands are forcing the F-14 out of service.

Makes you wonder, though; maybe they ought to just build some new F-14s, with new electronics. The basic design is still a good one. The new F-18s are slower and heavier that the older F-14s.

But the threat has changed as well. The F-14 was an answer to the Soviet threat, a way to keep Warsaw Pact bombers and fighters away from NATO convoys in case everybody's nightmares came true. (See Tom Clancy's Hunt for Red October or even better, Red Storm Rising, to see how the Tomcats were used and were intended to be used.) For naval aviation, the need now isn't so much to defend against enemy aircraft as to be able to strike deep into enemy territory.

I just hope we're not ignoring tomorrow's war while preparing for today's.

For more information:
The F-14 Tomcat Association
Tomcat Alley

UPDATE: A couple of looks back...
Neptunus Lex
Chaotic Synaptic Activity, Part I and Part II

Instapinch, Tomcats, Oceana Fly-in Part I, Part II, Part III

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Modern Socialist

Via Peter Robinson in The Corner:

No longer is it said that the state can outperform the market. Rather it is said that the market itself suffers from certain “failures” that justify forms of state intervention to protect individuals who are hurt in the process. The movement toward collectivization of all public activities, if it is to take place today, will not rest on a single bold initiative that casts aside the private sector. Instead, it will take place in the form of a multiple attack along different margins, where each individual struggle does not generalize easily across the board.

The long-standing objective of the modern closet socialist is to consolidate the separate beachheads after they are taken over. Thus, state dominance can be portrayed as a device that takes the irrationality, impersonality, and cruelty out of markets and not as a device that dispenses with their use altogether. In effect, the discourse takes the form of an intellectual two-step. Step one: markets are all right when they work. Step two: but markets do not work in this particular area, be it health care, labor, housing, agriculture, or whatever, each with it sown “special” problems.

In one sense, the quiet blessing in this approach is that it obviates the risk of a catastrophic conversion to state control through aggressive nationalization. But it gives rise to a multiple-front war in which substantial chunks of voluntary markets always find themselves at risk. The case against overall socialism is irrefutable today. But the desire to keep up with its egalitarian objectives continues to exert a considerable influence in practice.

Richard Epstein, Free Markets Under Siege, Hoover Press, pp. 10 -11

Monday, September 11, 2006

September 11, 2006

HeartAttack - Cox & Forkum

It has been five years since 2,996 people were murdered because they lived that day as they had any other.

I'll be dropping back to this post from time to time today to leave a few thoughts; right now; I'd like to leave some links of some great coverage & reads:

The 2996 Project is remembering the victims of the attacks.

National Review Online has a lot up, including a symposium featuring (among others) Mark Steyn and James Lileks and a link to its archives from that week.
A couple of notewothy pieces:
James Robbins, "Are We There Yet?"
David Pryce-Jones, "Resenting."
John O'Sullivan, "Patriotism Faded."

John Donovan at Argghhh! has good posts here and here.

Michael Ledeen, "I'm Still Angry."

Neptunus Lex, "Five Years On."

Cox & Forkum have a pair of excellent cartoons & posts up:
"Refresher Course" and "Confronting Terrorism, Part V."

SteelJaw talks about being in the Pentagon during the attack: Part I and Part II.

There are some well-done newsposts at these sites as well:
Winds of Change


*** ***

*** Where We Stand Now ***

Mark Steyn, writing in today's NRO symposium:
Mark Steyn
In the end, very little changed. The so-called “9/11 Democrats” are almost as invisible a presence as the “moderate Muslim,” and, insofar as one can tell, are most likely outnumbered by members of the Scowcroftian unrealpolitik Right still wedded to stability uber alles. In theory, if you’d wanted to construct an enemy least likely to appeal to the progressive Left, wife-beating gay-bashing theocrats would surely be it. But Islamism turned out to be the ne plus ultra of multiculti diversity-celebration — for what more demonstrates the boundlessness of one’s “tolerance” than by tolerating the intolerant. The Europeans’ fetishization of the Palestinians — whereby the more depraved the suicide bombers are the more brutalized they must have been by the Israelis — has, in effect, been globalized.

Anyone who’s mooched about the Muslim world for even brief amounts of time is struck by what David Pryce-Jones calls its “intellectual poverty”: It has a remarkable lack of curiosity about anything beyond its horizons. That hobbled it for centuries in its wars against the west. But our multicultural mindset is its mirror image: For isn’t the principle characteristic of “multiculturalism” its almost total lack of curiosity about other cultures? The multicultis make bliss of ignorance: You don’t need to know anything about Islam, you just have to feel warm and fluffy about it, and slap that “CO-EXIST” bumper sticker on your Subaru. If you want to know how little changed on 9/11, look at how it’s being observed in the nation’s schools.
James Lileks, writing in the same, is a bit more optimistic:
James Lileks
Half a decade later the changes seem small, and perhaps that’s a blessing. If 9/11 had been followed by 10/17, 11/02, 12/24, the Smallpox Epidemic of ’02, the EMP blackouts of ’03, and so much promiscuous anthrax distribution that mailmen tottered around in Hazmat suits on the hottest day of July, America would look quite different. But the other shoe didn’t drop — or rather, Richard Reid was KO’d before he could light it — and consequently we don’t look at the paper for news about the latest attack. We look at the ads in the paper for news about plasma-TV sales.

If 9/11 had really changed us, there’d be a 150-story building on the site of the World Trade Center today. It would have a classical memorial in the plaza with allegorical figures representing Sorrow and Resolve, and a fountain watched over by stern stone eagles. Instead there’s a pit, and arguments over the usual muted dolorous abstraction approved by the National Association of Grief Counselors. The Empire State Building took 18 months to build. During the Depression. We could do that again, but we don’t. And we don’t seem interested in asking why.

The good news? We returned to our norm: cheerful industrious self-directed Americans who think in terms of fiscal quarters, not ancient grievances, and trust in Coke and Mickey to spread our message of tolerance and prosperity. The bad news? Same as the good. Or perhaps it’s the other way around.

I suppose I'm more in sync with Steyn; although Lileks makes some great points. Deep down, I'm still mad. I want to hurt them. I want them destroyed, and I want it done now.

But what passion was there, has faded. It was weird here - among my friends, it's like no one was really angry that thousands of their countrymen had been murdered. Very strange. As for now - well, it's a passing thought at best, it seems.

Friday, September 08, 2006

TFFQ: Ask No Favors

Churchill Quote of the Week
"We ask no favours of the enemy. We seek from them no compunction. On the contrary, if tonight our people were asked to cast their vote whether a convention should be entered into to stop the bombing of cities, the overwhelming majority would cry, "No, we will mete out to them the measure, and more than the measure, that they have meted out to us." The people with one voice would say: "You have committed every crime under the sun. Where you have been the least resisted there you have been the most brutal. It was you who began the indiscriminate bombing. We will have no truce or parley with you, or the grisly gang who work your wicked will. You do your worst - and we will do our best." Perhaps it may be our turn soon; perhaps it may be our turn now.

"We live in a terrible epoch of the human story, but we believe there is a broad and sure justice running through its theme. It is time that the enemy should be made to suffer in their own homelands something of the torment they have let loose upon their neighbours and upon the world. We believe it to be in our power to keep this process going, on a steadily rising tide, month after month, year after year, until they are either extirpated by us or, better still, torn to pieces by their own people."

Sir Winston Churchill

[To the Friday Furo Questus.]

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Mark Steyn: "A Death in Iraq"

Mark Steyn reposted this column this week. I ask his forbearance, and reproduce it in its entirety here, if for no other reason than you remember this name: Fabrizio Quattrochi.

A Death in Iraq
from SteynOnline, October 12th 2004
FOR THE FIRST time in all my years with the Telegraph Group, I had a column pulled today. The editor expressed concerns about certain passages and we were unable to reach agreement, so on this Tuesday something else will be in my space.

I’d written about Kenneth Bigley, seized with two American colleagues but unlike them not beheaded immediately. Instead, sensing that they could exploit potential differences within “the coalition of the willing”, the Islamists played a cat-and-mouse game with Mr Bigley’s life, in which Fleet Street, the British public, governments in London and Dublin and Islamic lobby groups in the United Kingdom were far too willing to participate. As I always say, the point is not whether you’re sad about someone’s death, but what you’re prepared to do about it. What “Britain” – from Ken Bigley’s brother to the Foreign Secretary – did was make it more likely that other infidels will meet his fate.

I suppose the Telegraph felt it was a little heartless. Well, tough. This is a war, and misplaced mawkishness will lead to more deaths. In August 2001, I wrote as follows about the first anniversary of 9/11, when coverage was threatening to go the way of Princess Di and mounds of teddy bears:

Three thousand people died on September 11th, leaving a gaping hole in the lives of their children, parents, siblings and friends. Those of us who don’t fall into those categories are not bereaved and, by pretending to be, we diminish the real pain of those who really feel it. That’s not to say that, like many, I wasn’t struck by this or that name that drifted up out of the great roll-call of the dead. Newsweek’s Anna Quindlen ‘fastened on’, as she put it, one family on the flight manifest:

Peter Hanson, Massachusetts
Susan Hanson, Massachusetts
Christine Hanson, 2, Massachusetts

As Miss Quindlen described them, ‘the father, the mother, the two-year old girl off on an adventure, sitting safe between them, taking flight.’ Christine Hanson will never be three, and I feel sad about that. But I did not know her, love her, cherish her; I do not feel her loss, her absence in my life. I have no reason to hold hands in a ‘healing circle’ for her. All I can do for Christine Hanson is insist that the terrorist movement which killed her is hunted down and prevented from targeting any more two-year olds. We honour Christine Hanson’s memory by righting the great wrong done to her, not by ersatz grief-mongering.

That’s the way I feel about Kenneth Bigley. Here’s the column the Telegraph declined to publish:

WHETHER OR not it is, in the technical sense, a “joke”, I find myself, with the benefit of hindsight, in agreement with Billy Connolly’s now famous observation on Kenneth Bigley – “Aren’t you the same as me, don’t you wish they would just get on with it?”

Had his killers “just got on with it”, they would have decapitated Mr Bigley as swiftly as they did his two American confreres. But, sensing that there was political advantage to be gained in distinguishing the British subject from his fellow hostages, they didn’t get on with it, and the intervening weeks reflected poorly on both Britain and Mr Bigley.

None of us can know for certain how we would behave in his circumstances, and very few of us will ever face them. But, if I had to choose the very last last words I’d want to find myself uttering in this life, “Tony Blair has not done enough for me” would be high up on the list. First, because it’s the all but official slogan of modern Britain, the dull rote whine of the churlish citizen invited to opine on waiting lists or public transport, and thus unworthy of the uniquely grisly situation in which Mr Bigley found himself. And, secondly, because those words are so at odds with the spirit of a life spent, for the most part, far from these islands, first as a “ten pound pom” in Oz and New Zealand, and later in more exotic outposts of empire. Ken Bigley seems to have found contemporary Britain a dreary, insufficient place and I doubt he cared about who was Prime Minister from one decade to the next. Had things gone differently and had his fate befallen some other expatriate, and had he chanced upon a month-old London newspaper in his favourite karaoke bar up near the Thai-Cambodian border and read of the entire city of Liverpool going into a week of Dianysian emotional masturbation over some deceased prodigal son with no inclination to return whom none of the massed ranks of weeping Scousers from the Lord Mayor down had ever known, Mr Bigley would surely have thanked his lucky stars that he and his Thai bride were about as far from his native sod as it’s possible to get.

While Ken Bigley passed much of his life as a happy expat, his brother Paul appears to have gone a stage further and all but seceded. Night and day, he was on TV explaining to the world how the Bigley family’s Middle East policy is wholly different from Her Majesty’s Government – a Unilateral Declaration of Independence accepted de facto by Mr Blair’s ministry when it dispatched Jack Straw to Merseyside to present formally his condolences to the Bigleys, surely the most extraordinary flying visit ever undertaken by a British Foreign Secretary. For their pains, the government was informed by Paul Bigley that the Prime Minister had “blood on his hands”. This seems an especially stupid and contemptible formulation when anyone with an Internet connection can see Ken Bigley’s blood and the hand it’s literally on holding up his head.

It reminded me of Robert Novak of The Chicago Sun-Times back in May, quoting “one senior official of a coalition partner” calling for the firing of Donald Rumsfeld on the grounds that “there must be a neck cut, and there is only one neck of choice.”

At pretty much that exact moment in Iraq, Nick Berg’s captors were cutting his head off - or, rather, feverishly hacking it off while raving “Allahu akhbar!” - God is great. The difference between the participants in this war is that on one side robust formulations about “blood on his hands” and “calls for the Defence Secretary’s head” are clichéd metaphors, and on the other they mean it.

Paul Bigley can be forgiven his clumsiness: he’s a freelancer winging it. But the feelers put out by the Foreign Office to Ken Bigley’s captors are more disturbing: by definition, they confer respectability on the head-hackers and increase the likelihood that Britons and other foreigners will be seized and decapitated in the future. The United Kingdom, like the government of the Philippines when it allegedly paid a ransom for the release of its Iraqi hostages, is thus assisting in the mainstreaming of jihad.

By contrast with the Fleet Street-Scouser-Whitehall fiasco of the last three weeks, consider Fabrizio Quattrocchi, murdered in Iraq on April 14th. In the moment before his death, he yanked off his hood and cried defiantly, “I will show you how an Italian dies!” He ruined the movie for his killers. As a snuff video and recruitment tool, it was all but useless, so much so that the Arabic TV stations declined to show it.

If the FCO wants to issue advice in this area, that’s the way to go: If you’re kidnapped, accept you’re unlikely to survive, say “I’ll show you how an Englishman dies”, and wreck the video. If they want you to confess you’re a spy, make a little mischief: there are jihadi from Britain, Italy, France, Canada and other western nations all over Iraq – so say yes, you’re an MI6 agent, and so are those Muslims from Tipton and Luton who recently joined the al-Qaeda cells in Samarra and Ramadi. As Churchill recommended in a less timorous Britain: You can always take one with you. If Tony Blair and other government officials were to make that plain, that would be, to use Mr Bigley’s word, “enough”.

And, if you don’t want to wind up in that situation, you need to pack heat and be prepared to resist at the point of abduction. I didn’t give much thought to decapitation when I was mooching round the Sunni Triangle last year, but my one rule was that I was determined not to get into a car with any of the locals and I was willing to shoot anyone who tried to force me. If you’re not, you shouldn’t be there.

Perhaps it’s easy to say that. Ken Bigley, after all, was blasé about personal security. Tootling around Iraq in his very conspicuous SUV, he told chums, “I’m not afraid. You only die once.” In the end, he revised his insouciance, grasping for a shot at a second chance. I know the Ken Bigley on display these last few weeks is not the measure of the man. But that’s all the more reason why in dangerous times and dangerous places one should give some thought to what they used to call a “good death”. None of the above would have guaranteed Mr Bigley’s life, but it would have given him, as it did Signor Quattrocchi, a less pitiful end, and it would have spared the world a glimpse of the feeble and unserious Britain of the last few weeks. The jihadists have become rather adept at devising tests customized for each group of infidels: Madrid got bombed, and the Spaniards failed their test three days later; the Australian Embassy in Jakarta got bombed, but the Aussies held firm and re-elected John Howard’s government anyway. With Britain, the Islamists will have drawn many useful lessons from the decadence and defeatism on display.

New Oil Field in the Gulf of Mexico?

USA Today is reporting the discovery of a potentially huge oil field in the Gulf of Mexico.
Tests of a deep-water well in the Gulf of Mexico could indicate a significant oil discovery, three companies said Tuesday, in the first project to tap into a region that reportedly could boost U.S. oil and gas reserves as much as 50%.
Okay, that's big.

Granted, we're still in the early stages of this, and the size of the field and quality of the oil have yet to be determined. But this is exciting and potentially very good news.

Friday, September 01, 2006

TFFQ: Civility and Disagreement

Questus Furore - Civility and Disagreement
On April 20, in downtown Washington, a constituency previously not heard from (or not listened to) turned out in impressive numbers. Its representatives looked respectable. They conducted themselves with dignity. They had a grievance. The only thing missing was an intelligible demand.

P.J. O’Rourke, Peace Kills
When passion collides with civility, civility loses.

A case in point: Mayor Rocky Anderson's 2005 and 2006 responses to President Bush visiting the United States. When Utah did not erupt in spontaneous revulsion, the mayor took it upon himself to organize protests against the President's presence. (Unanswered and unexplored is the question of what city resources and employees were used to organize these protests. Seems like a job for some enterprising reporter out there. Too bad the local newspapers - the Salt Lake Tribune, the Deseret News - don't employ any.)

Now what, exactly, they were protesting about on Friday is unclear. The Iraq war, Israel, Palestine, stem cells, abortion, dry itchy skin, that the sun was shining - the signs had a host of reasons. In truth, they were a rabble looking for a leader. They found a cheerleader instead.

All that was clear is that the mayor of Salt Lake City did not want the President of the United States to feel welcome in his city. And that's just sad, reflecting a lack of respect for the Presidency and basic manners.

The next time a Democrat complains about how Republicans have taken the civility out of politics - you may want to remind them of this pathetic episode. An episode where the outraged passions of a decided few, a few that have made their feelings clear and known since the election of President Bush since the election of 2000, were elevated over the need for decorum and civility.

Not that the aggrieved elite care, but we all lost something with this.

Thought of the Week
"The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. Property must be sacred or liberty cannot exist."
John Adams

Churchill Quote of the Week
"The worst difficulties from which we suffer do not come from without. The come from within. They do not come from the cottages of the wage-earners. They come from a peculiar type of brainy people always found in our country, who, if they add something to its culture, take much from its strength. Our difficulties come from the mood of unwarrantable self-abasement into which we have been cast by a powerful section of our own intellectuals. They come from the acceptance of defeatist doctrines by a large proportion of our politicians ... Nothing can save England if she will not save herself. If we lose faith in ourselves, in our capacity to guide and govern, if we lose our will to live, then indeed our story is told."
Sir Winston Churchill

The rest of The Friday Furo Questus can be found at the Wasatch Front.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Quotable - "Moral Arithmetic"

Jeff Goldstein writing at his blog, Protein Wisdom:
If you don’t like the Bush Doctrine or the given tack for fighting terrorism, say so and say why. But to fall back on the canard that we’re in some kind of serious danger of losing our liberties—after five years of war where we’ve been asked little sacrifice—is itself the very kind of scaremongering the anti-war people always accuse the administration of engaging in each time it purports to take the terror threat seriously.

What the administration has going for it is that it is fighting to protect a way of life—not, as some others evidently are, a mere standard of living.
Hear, hear.

TFFQ: A Plague of Red Ghosts

A new Friday Furo Questus is up at The Wasatch Front.

Questus Furore - A Plague of Red Ghosts
I wonder if we truly appreciate the blight left on the world by seventy-plus years of Soviet Communism.

Let's leave alone the succession of failed states and active terror movements that the Soviet Union built up and strung along during the Cold War. The growing conflagration of Islamic terror was stoked by Soviet cash and arms.

And then there are those persistent lies. Lies like this:
The concern [is] that, through mechanisms we're not entirely sure of, the very richest are siphoning off the economic growth before it flows through the middle and lower classes. The worry is about the distribution of growth, but the suspicion is that the distribution is being warped by the sheer level of inequality.
I'm not going to address this here; Russell Roberts at Cafe Hayek refutes this delusion far better than I can. (He is also where you can find this conspiracy theory; I'm not going to dignify it with a link.)

The idea that the rich have some secret system for siphoning off wealth and denying it to "the people" is not a new one; as long as there have been Marxists, this idea has not been far behind. It was the popular refrain of Communists and socialists in the 1930s, an encouragement to the proletariat to rise up, seize control of the state, and smash capitalism and the bougeoisie. (Usually blissfully ignorant of the carnage necessary to effect such change.)

It is an idea that considers wealth a fixed quantity, that in order for one to have luxury another must do without. This is an idea that can be dispelled by a basic class in economics - but it is a legend that many desperately want to believe, so they do.

I am reminded of a time while I was attending the University of Utah, on my way to a business class. I started talking with a girl nearby, learning that she was a graduate student in economic. She then proceeded to tell me how she believed capitalism was a failed idea, that Marxism was the way to go. I didn't laugh in her face; I try to be more polite than that. I did not challege her assertion, either, though now I wish I had. For there I was, twelve years after Communism's demise, surrounded by the products of capitalistic society, products that Russia still hadn't managed to compare. All Communism had managed to accomplish was the efficient mass production of human misery.

The empirical results of Communism, Marxism, socialism, and their fellow travelers are all that are necessary to damn them forever. They operate on the assumption that men can be forced to be better, that wealth is fixed, and that government can fix all - as long as it is run by enlightened people.

Capitalism works because it acknowledges that men are not angels, and succeeds despite them.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Well, They Do

Whiteboard 20060816

From The Whiteboard, one of the better webcomics out there.

The current storyline, of which this is part, starts

Friday, August 18, 2006

A New Friday Furo Questus Is Up

...only at The Wasatch Front.

Thought of the Week
"The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane."
Marcus Aurelius

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Coming Soon! Rocky Anderson's Circus!

Oh swell. Guess whos coming for dinner for Rocky's protest.

In a couple of weeks, President Bush is coming to Salt Lake to address the American Legion. And Rocky finds that offensive.

Napoleon Bonaparte
Rocky Anderson, a legend in his own mind.

Not content to let Bush visit Utah unpicketed, Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson has once again taken it upon himself to organize a protest.

And he invited Cindy Sheehan to come. Out of the goodness of his own heart, I'm sure.

But this is more than just a disagreement about policy. This is what, in Rocky's world, passes for rational debate, as he stated in a KSL interview:
Excerpt 1: Rocky Anderson, Mayor of Salt Lake City: "I think he has been an utter disaster and I think there's a huge obligation on the part of anybody who sees these as major problems to stand up. I think it's the most patriotic thing an American can do."

Excerpt 2: "This president has been a disaster. He's led us with a lot of lies, whether it was manipulated intelligence, whether it's ineptitude, he has led us into a war."
"He's led us with a lot of lies." So in Rocky's world, Bush is not just wrong, he's evil.

I think I found some of Rocky's supporters:

tinfoil hatters

Okay. But answer me this: what, exactly is the point of this protest? You think Bush doesn't know he's not real popular right now? That the President doesn't know a lot of people disagree with him on Iraq?

Here's what I think this is: it's all about you, Rocky. You're a big progressive fish in a small bowl, a fact that chaps your hide. You aspire to bigger things. This is your last chance to grab some national media attention before you leave the mayor's office. And by inviting Cindy Sheehan, you guarantee national media attention focused on you.

And you and everyone who shows up to your "peace rally" will be marching for yourselves.

As I said last year: Salt Lake needs a mayor, not a mouthpiece. Rocky, you're not representing me. You're not representing the community view. Admit it - this is all about you.

Leave already, Rocky. You've insulted us enough.

P.S. DISCLAIMER: Yes, they have the right to do this. I am painfully aware of this. But just because you have the right to do something doesn't necessarily mean you should. For example, I could launch into a profanity-laced diatribe on the mayor, or I could relate stories and rumors (some of which are even true) of the mayor's behavior with his employees. But I won't.

Also, no comments here. If you would like to comment on this piece, please join me over at The Wasatch Front, where I've cross-posted this article. Thanks.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Monday, August 14, 2006

Seen At The Corner: "Storm Warning"

Seen at The Corner:
Storm Warning [Stanley Kurtz]

In an interview with Paul Gigot at FOX News, Middle East expert Martin Kramer says the Lebanon war was more likely a mistake than a deliberately planned diversion from international efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear program. (I don’t have a link, but Ralph Peters also argued early on that the war was not a planned diversion but a mistake.) Basically, Kramer argues, Iran gave Hezbollah a wide array of rocket technology (far more of it than Israel realized) for use against Israel in the event of an American and/or Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. But Iran’s orders were vague, and Hezbollah jumped the gun, thereby degrading the value of one of the key modes of (proxy) retaliation Iran had planned to use in the event of a move against its nuclear program.

Let’s think about this. How would this work in a world where Iran had given Hezbollah, or some other terrorist group, a weapon of mass destruction, to be used as a form of difficult-to-trace proxy retaliation in case of a serious attack? No doubt, in the case of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons, Iran’s instructions to a terrorist client might be far clearer and more restrictive: “Absolutely do not use this (dirty bomb, suitcase nuclear devise, anthrax, etc.) unless and until we (Iran) are directly and forcefully attacked by the United States, or Israel, or both. In fact, wait for word from us before planting this device in Tel Aviv or New York.” Would Hezbollah go along? Would a nuclear, chemical, or biologically armed Hezbollah even realize when their conventional provocations might be going too far? After all, in this case, Hezbollah likely didn’t realize that by kidnaping Israeli soldiers it was starting a war. In other words, we’re witnessing a dry run of the sort of miscalculations we face in a world of nuclear armed, terrorist-friendly states.

Iran gives Hezbollah rocket technology, only meaning it to be used in case Israel and/or the United States launch a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear program. Hezbollah miscalculates by kidnaping Israeli soldiers, thereby creating a war in which the Iranian rockets are “prematurely” used. After all, once at war Hezbollah feels it necessary to defend itself with everything it’s got. In fact, you’ve got to believe Hezbollah’s very possession of so much Iranian supplied rocketry made it overconfident about provoking Israel in the first place.

So the very receipt of powerful weaponry from allied nation-states makes terrorist groups more likely to take destabilizing risks–especially because they don’t have countries to defend, or a public to whom they are accountable. Terrorist groups are simply organizations composed of people who live to die. Now substitute weapons of mass destruction for rockets and you see how quickly a rogue state in league with a terrorist organization could plunge the world into a nuclear conflict, even when it doesn’t intend to do so.

Posted at 10:11 AM

Friday, August 11, 2006

Seen At The Corner: "Let's Not Radicalize Them"

Andy McCarthy, at The Corner:
They're Radicals, So Let's Not Radicalize Them ... [Andy McCarthy]
The big wind-up from that Times' "news" story this morning — no editorializing here:
[Simon] Reeve [who wrote a book about bin Laden] said that while traveling recently in Indonesia he heard of many baby boys being named Osama in honor of Mr. bin Laden. In part because of the Iraq war, he said, “We’re seeing a radicalization of the ummah, the larger Muslim community around the world.”
So try to follow this — though, of course, you'll need the high-brow nuance of a State Department careerist or the Council on Foreign Relations to grasp it. In the decade after we left Saddam Hussein in power rather than deposing him, representatives of the umma responded by bombing the World Trade Center (1993), Khobar (1996), the embassies (1998), the U.S.S. Cole (2000); unsuccessfully plotting to blow up much of Manhattan (1993), a bunch of airliners (1994-95), L.A. Int'l Airport (2000) and the U.S.S. The Sullivans (2000); and finally killing almost 3000 of us in suicide hijackings that destroyed the WTC and damaged the Pentagon.

But it was the Iraq war of 2003 that radicalized them.

It couldn't possibly have been, say, the Koran's Sura 9:5 ("Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolators wherever ye find them, and take them captive, and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush.")

Naaaaaaaaaahhhhh, must have been the Iraq war.

Posted at 6:02 AM

Thursday, August 10, 2006

What, Me Worry?

Sorry to be alarmist - but given today's news, should we be worried about these guys?

Especially since I'm flying to Florida on business next week...

And just what were these two knuckleheads up to in Ohio? (And notice their names.)

British Break Up Terror Plot

British intelligence and police have foiled a major terror plot.

The basic outline of the plot seems to be this: using liquid explosives disguised as common items (beverages, lotions, gels) or concealed in electronic devices, suicide bombers would destroy planes on Trans-Atlantic flights.

21 people have been arrested in connection with this plot; rumor is that they are all British citizens, of Pakistani ethnicity. This has not been confirmed.

As you can imagine, there is a lot left to learn about this.

Quote of the day comes from Instapundit:
"Some people have decided that the war on terror is passe. But although you may not be interested in terrorism, terrorism is still interested in you."

News links:
Drudge Report
NRO's The Corner
Pajamas Media
Irish Trojan
Counterterrorism Blog (specific articles here and here)