Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Radical Environmentalism from the NY Times

I'd like to attribute it to poetic license, but I can't help sensing a touch of radical environmentalism in the NY Time's slapping a headline, The Year the Earth Fought Back, on an otherwise sober and thoughtful op-ed piece on the earthquake off Sumatra.

I assume the Times came up with the headline since it is my understanding that authors do not write their own. The underlying commentary, written by Simon Winchester (author of Krakatoa : The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883, which I highly recommend) is not, as the title might suggest, a screed on how the human race reaping the results of its crimes against the environment. Instead, it pairs the Sumatran earthquake with one in Iran a year earlier (and a number of other geological events in between) and compares it to the rash of earthquake activity in 1906 (including the Great San Francisco Quake that leveled the city).

The question Mr. Winchester asks is whether these events are related, i.e., did the earlier earthquake in Iran, through some as yet unknown mechanism of plate tectonics, contribute to the quake off Sumatra a year later? To support his supposition, Mr. Winchester points out that the science of plate tectonics is less than 40 years old and, as additional support, points to the discovery that the geysers in Yellowstone National Park started to erupt much more frequently in the days immediately following a huge earthquake in central Alaska in 2002.

Mr. Winchester raises these questions in the hope that an understanding of such connections, should they exist, would provide warnings and allow us to prepare for events such as Sumatra. The Time's headline anthropomorphizes the connectedness of the quakes and implies that the "Earth" was responding to prior attacks against itself. Not only is this sentiment New Age occultism at its worst, it is highly offensive when applied to an event that may have killed 100,000 people. This thinly veiled glee at the "comeuppance" dished out to humanity for its eco-crimes is the same that motivates radical environmental groups who want their policies followed regardless of the cost in human life. Its surprising to see it on the pages of the Times.

UN delenda est!

That's my take at least. It's hard to see what purpose the UN serves when you try to find common cause between democracies like the United States, Poland and Australia on one side and tyrannies like Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia on the other. Shouldn't we, the democracies be trying to effect regime change in those places?

Strike that, I do see a purpose the UN serves. It serves to enrich amoral bureaucrats and evil dictators (the oil-for-food scandal), gloss over genocide (in the Sudan and give France a world stage on which to play act that its still a world power. France's military might (such as it ever was) has long been in eclipse, its economic power is waning and its moral authority never existed. It's permanent seat on the UN Security Council is a joke. It's ludicrous to argue that France deserves a status denied to countries more important to global matters such as India and Brazil. The seat was meant as a balm to wounded gallic pride after WWII, as a pretense that somehow France was on the allied side rather than an eager collaborator with Germany.

Writing in the WSJ, Claudia Rossett, who's been tireless in her coverage of the oil for food scandal, doesn't go quite that far, merely calling for Ukraine-style regime change - Blue: The Next Orange?:

But to suppose that the United Nations will reform itself from within is to miss the eerie unreality of the place. It is not simply changes in some of the staffing that are needed, or U.N. commissioned reports recommending that the U.N. "reform" by way of doing even more of whatever it does already. What's needed is something that among sovereign states we have come to call regime change--the basic alteration of a system that in its privileges, immunities and practices resembles rather too closely some of the dictatorships that still pack its ranks.
Ms. Rossett lays out a laundry list of charges against the current regime that makes Castro look like a slacker:

- The theft of billions of dollars from the UN administered Oil for Food program intended for the aid of sick and hungry Iraqis.
- The bribery and collusion of UN staff, including Kofi Annan's son Kojo, in the theft.
- The stonewalling of investigations into the scandal, including attempts to silence contractors.
- Reports of rape and child molestation committed by U.N. peacekeepers in Africa.
- Allegations of sexual harassment involving senior UN officials.
- Toleration of genocide in Rwanda and the Balkans.

I don't know if regime change is worth pursuing. The UN was an embodiment of the post-WWII world order - its a survivor of a world that no longer exists. Perhaps it is time for the UN to fade away, to be replaced by something newer and more meaningful.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

WORLD ENDS - Women, Minorities Hardest Hit

Since Best of the Web is on vacation this week, someone has to take up the slack on stories like this (as an added bonus, you could also file it under Homeless Rediscovery Watch):

AP's report from Honolulu on that city's observation of National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day (I think it replaces Christmas) includes this startling fact:
The homeless coalition (the Washington-based National Coalition of Homeless - seems to be missing a "the") estimates there are more than 3.5 million homeless Americans nationwide. An estimated 3,000 died last year, and the homeless coalition expects that figure to rise this year.
The startling figure isn't the number of homeless persons, but their mortality rate. 3,000 deaths among 3.5 million people works out to a mortality rate of 85.71 deaths per 100,000, which seemed kind of low. My two minute search for national mortality figures on Google yielded Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2002 from volume 52, number 13 of the CDC's National Vital Statistics reports which puts the age-adjusted death rate for the U.S. in 2002 at 846.8 per 100,000 population.

Assuming that these figures are roughly comparable, a non-homeless person is nearly ten times as likely to die in a given year than a homeless person. Maybe there's something to all that talk of healthy outdoor living!

Not to make light of the plight of the homeless, but clearly the stats quoted are wrong. Not only that, even if you accepted them, they disprove the case the coalition is trying to make, i.e., that the homeless endure lives that are, to quote Hobbes "nasty, brutish and short". Throwing bogus statistics around doesn't help.

President Bush and Religion

In A hot line to heaven, the Economist looks at President Bush's use of religion and asks whether it is outside the mainstream of presidential history. Their conclusion:

Mr Bush is in fact in the mainstream of recent presidents. As Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Centre points out, Jimmy Carter taught Sunday school while president. Bill Clinton talked about Jesus more often than Mr Bush and has spoken in more churches than Mr Bush has had rubber-chicken dinners.
If this is the case, why all the uproar on the Left? Partially, its due to the increasing stridency of those militant secularists who believe that putting up a Christmas tree in a town square is equivalent to the establishment of a state religion and there in violation of the Constitution, but I think there's a more fundamental cause.

The reason the Left objects to President Bush's religious references, while ignoring those of Bill Clinton or, more recently, John Kerry, is that they know Bush actually believes in this stuff. The self-styled elites who lead the charge on this give Democratic candidates like Clinton and Kerry (and lately Nancy Pelosi) a pass on this because they know that the candidate is just playing it up for the less enlightened rubes in the fly-over states that matter so much during elections but who can be ignored and laughed at the rest of the time. A politician who actually means what he says when he quotes the Bible (an who doesn't need to be coached on the difference between the old and new testaments) is a whole other matter.

Hat tip - Katherine Lopez at The Corner.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

The Jacksonian Tradition

It's a little dated, having been published back in May, but in The Jacksonian Tradition and the War in Iraq , John Moser of the Ashbrook Center looks at a strain of U.S. foreign policy dubbed "Jacksonianism" by Walter Russell Mead.

Mead, author of Power, Terror, Peace, and War, has identified Jacksonianism as one of four major schools of thought that have dominated American foreign policy thinking along with the more elitist strains of Hamiltonianism (economic nationalism), Jeffersonianism (isolationalism) and Wilsonianism (idealistic interationalism). As described by Mead, Jacksonianism is characterized by popular nationalism, self reliance and "rugged" individualism which he traces back to the Scotts-Irish who settled the early American frontier (this same group is the subject of Born Fighting : How the Scots-Irish Shaped America, James Webb's well received new book, which seems to come to the same conclusions regarding their cultural characteristics).

The other defining trait of Jacksonianism, and the wellspring of Moser's piece, is the streak of "near savagery" evidenced in war:

Jacksonians, according to Mead, are not automatic supporters of intervention abroad. In the 1990s the Clinton administration's efforts in Somalia and Eastern Europe, having little to do with tangible American interests, left them cold. However, once they are convinced that war is justified on grounds of national interest or national honor, their sole concern is achieving victory at the lowest cost to American forces. They have little patience for diplomacy, and none whatsoever for the notion of "limited war." They find it difficult to understand why humanitarian concern for the enemy should be allowed to trump the lives of U.S. soldiers and other personnel.

The fiercest Jacksonian outrage is reserved for enemies who are deemed to be dishonorable - that is, those who fight contrary to the recognized rules of war. Ordinary opponents, who honor longstanding traditions such as the flag of truce, and who treat prisoners humanely, are entitled to be treated in the same fashion. On the other hand, terrorists who target women and children, kidnap and execute journalists and other civilians, and commit similar atrocities deserve whatever they get. The Geneva Convention, they believe, exists to protect civilization, not the barbarians who seek to bring it down.
This rejection of "limited war" and desire for achieving "decisive" victory has deep roots in Western culture. In Carnage and Culture : Landmark Battles in the Rise to Western Power, Victor Davis Hanson identifies this desire for "decisive battles" as one of the contributors to Western military dominance. Hanson traces this desire back to the short sharp wars between the city states of ancient Greece. The hoplite armies of these city states were made up of free landholding farmers who wanted to resolve the conflict and get back home as soon as possible:

In the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. if a small Greek community was self-supporting and governed by its surrounding private landowners, then hoplite warfare, far better than fortification or garrisoning passes, made perfect sense: muster the largest, best-armed group of farmers to protect land in the quickest, cheapest, and most decisive way possible.
Hanson argues that it was certain facets of Western culture, such as consensual government, free inquiry and innovative enterprise, as first expressed by the Greeks, that enabled it to wage war so effectively.

Europe, especially "old Europe" is in the process of losing the very characteristics that allowed its culture to survive and flourish. Taking Hanson's argument forward, given the shift of Europe's political institutions toward an unelected transnational government under the EU, its culture toward moral relativism and its economies toward cradle to grave socialism, its little wonder that the what was once a common attribute of Western culture now seen as predominantly an American characteristic.

The Religion of the Left - The Liberals' Creed

Another in the string of commentaries finding elements of "religion", i.e., a reliance in faith rather than facts, in the Left's core beliefs.

For all the talk about a widening religiosity gap between the right and the left, sentiment from the left indicates a certain religious fervor about the war in Iraq. A string of recent letters and articles from those of a more liberal persuasion suggest that they choose to ignore or simply do not believe information which is inconsistent with their basic tenets.
Robert Alt brings us The Liberals' Creed:
We believe that the Iraq war was unilateral.
We believe that the participation of Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Thailand, United Kingdom, and Ukraine does not change the fact that the war was unilateral;
We believe that multilateralism can only be achieved with the participation of France and Germany;
We believe in multilateralism.
The entire piece is hilarious. It was originally published back in May, but looking at it post-election, it seems ancient. Still, I don't think you'll find a single contradiction that doesn't still apply.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

MoveOn to Democratic Party: 'We Own It'

This is the result of McCain-Feingold:

A scathing e-mail from the head of MoveOn's political action committee to the group's supporters on Thursday targets outgoing Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe as a tool of corporate donors who alienated both traditional and progressive Democrats.

"For years, the party has been led by elite Washington insiders who are closer to corporate lobbyists than they are to the Democratic base," said the e-mail from MoveOn PAC's Eli Pariser. "But we can't afford four more years of leadership by a consulting class of professional election losers."

Under McAuliffe's leadership, the message said, the party coddled the same corporate donors that fund Republicans to bring in money at the expense of vision and integrity.

"In the last year, grass-roots contributors like us gave more than $300 million to the Kerry campaign and the DNC, and proved that the party doesn't need corporate cash to be competitive," the message continued. "Now it's our party: we bought it, we own it, and we're going to take it back."
(From AP via Yahoo! News)

Rather than limit special interest groups as intended, the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill has magnified their influence, in the form of 527 groups, exponentially. Shackled under that legislation, the DNC can't match the fundraising firepower of groups like MoveOn. Since money is the key to power within the party, MoveOn and their ilk are now in defacto control.

Dean 2008 begins now.

Other Commentary

From Powerline:
I like it. It's the first glimmer of respect for property rights we've seen from the Dems in a long time.

Liberal Hypocrisy

Over the weekend on NBC's Meet the Press, new Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid disparaged Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, calling him an "embarrassment" and saying that his opinions were "poorly written".

The comments, which came in response to host Tim Russert's question about prior anti-Thomas comments Reid had made, were widely reported. A number of conservative commentators, including James Taranto in his OpinionJournal - Best of the Web column for Monday the 6th, accused Reid of making (at best) racially insensitive comments or, at worst, engaging in racial stereotyping due to Reid's generalizations.

These comments have drawn a number of responses from liberal pundits which Mr. Taranto has rounded-up and responded to in his column today:

This, along with the racist attacks on Condoleezza Rice we noted last month, got us to thinking about the relationship between the Democratic Party and black Americans. Some have likened it to a plantation, but it seems to us that a better analogy is a protection racket. The deal is that the Dems will protect blacks from racism and blacks will give their political support to Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, John Kerry and the like. But the most blatant racism in America today comes from Democrats and is directed against black politicians and public servants who opt out of this arrangement.
I think this is a fair assessment. Black Americans who don't agree with liberal ideology are routinely belittled in the MSM and branded "Uncle Toms" or "Oreos" in its most partisan reaches. Comments far worse than those that led to the removal of Trent Lott as majority leader are routinely bandied about by those on the Left without the slightest objection. Liberals push for affirmative action and then use it as a smear against any black American they disagree with (if Justice Thomas is an "embarrassment" as Senator Reid claims, then surely he means to imply that it was his race which secured him his position).

This hypocritical behavior isn't limited to matters of race; after the election there were plenty of commentators on the Left who groused that most Blue States "paid" more in taxes than they received back from the government while the reverse was true of Red States (based on an opinion piece by Daniel Pink in the New York Times back in January - no longer available for free). The sentiment was either that this should stop (in order to punish the Red States for voting Republican) or derision that Bush was supported by "welfare" states.

It's funny that the Left doesn't apply this same reasoning to individuals; those in the top tax brackets pay more to the government in taxes than they receive in benefits while a large percentage of Americans pay nothing or in fact receive a net payment through the mis-named earned income tax credit. In fact, I seem to recall Hillary Clinton telling a gathering of wealthy donors that they would in fact pay even more if the Democrats had their way because they could afford to.

The Democrats see an onerous tax burden, like affirmative action, not as a something that is justified in and of itself, but merely as a means to reward those who agree with them. When those same benefits go to their opponents, they change their tune.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Michael Ledeen - Man of the World

An interesting biographical piece on Michael Ledeen, author of The War against the Terror Masters, which appeared in the Boston Globe back in October. Interesting trivia, Ledeen wrote a book, "The First Duce", on Italian poet Gabriele D'Annunzio, who is mentioned in Thomas Pynchon's novel "V". D'Annunzio led a military coup to capture the Italian port city of Fiume in 1919 because he feared that it would be ceded to Yugoslavia in the aftermath of WWI.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

More on Arafat and the Palestinian Movement

Steven Plaut, writing in FrontPage reviews the history of the Palestinian movement and sees anti-semitism in Europe's embrace of it:
The simple fact of the matter is that there is no such thing on the planet as sympathy for and identification with Palestinians. There is no such thing as pro-Palestinianism. Period. When Palestinians, or when Arabs in general, are mistreated, repressed, and tormented by any Arab regime, no one cares. When Palestinians were mass murdered by Syria and Jordan, no one cared. When more than 100,000 Arab civilians are massacred in Algeria, it does not even make the evening news. When Asad or Saddam Hussein carry out mass murders of Arabs, the “Human Rights” lobby never looks up from its cinnamon latté.

The pro-Palestinian movement is nothing more than the 21st century’s reincarnation of medieval anti-Semitism, complete with medieval anti-Jewish blood libels. People who claim to feel empathy for Palestinians are typically motivated by hatred of Jews. The reason the pro-Palestinian movement wants the Palestinians to have a state is because it understands that such a state will operate as an instrument to attack Israel, murder Jews, and seek the annihilation of the Jewish state.
Plaut asks why no one, especially in Europe, was seeking a Palestinian state before Israel's conquest of Gaza and the West Bank in 1967:
The world actually understands that there is no such thing as a Palestinian “nation.” Palestinians are just Arabs who happen to live in the western section of Palestine, differing little from Syrians or Lebanese. Most of them are from families who migrated into Palestine from the time of the beginning of modern Zionism, when Jewish capital and human skills were making western Palestine a much more comfortable place to live for Arabs from the neighboring lands. To describe them as a “nation” is as persuasive as describing Michigan’s Arabs as a new “Detroitian” nation in need of self-determination.

In 1948, the entire West Bank and the Gaza Strip were seized by Arab states, (illegally) occupied by Jordan and Egypt, in their war to extinguish the newly created state of Israel. The Arab countries could have unilaterally erected a Palestinian state any time between 1948 and 1967 had they wished to do so, and Israel could have had nothing to say about it. There was no Palestinian national movement at all demanding statehood in these areas. In the entire world, there was no demand for a right of the Palestinian “people” to erect a state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Neither was there any demand for Palestinian self-determination east of the Jordan river. Transjordan was always as much “Palestine” as was the land west of the river, and the Palestinians have always been a demographic majority in Jordan (since its independence after World War I.) So why have these East Bank Palestinians never felt the need for “self-determination”? Why have none of the caring supporters of Palestinians ever come out for a Palestinian state at least partly east of the Jordan River? Surely, establishing a state there, at least initially, must be much easier than doing so west of the Jordan. There would be no pesky Israelis around to deal with!
and questions the common assumption that the "Palestinian Issue" lies at the heart of today's mideast crisis:
What exactly were the Fatah and the PLO (taken over by the Fatah faction in 1967) supposed to be “liberating”? After all, this was back before Israel’s victories in the 1967 Six Day War, during which Israel seized the West Bank and Gaza in its counterattack. The West Bank and the Gaza Strip were there for the Palestinian plucking, had they wished to have their own state. There were no “Palestinian occupied territories” at all to liberate. The West Bank and Gaza were not “occupied,” at least not by Israel.

The answer is that these Palestinian “liberation” movements were launched in the mid-1960s to liberate the Middle East from Israel’s existence. From Arafat’s viewpoint and that of his apologists, Tel Aviv and Haifa were and are just as much “illegal settlements on Palestinian soil” as anything later constructed by Israel in the Gaza Strip.

On the day before the outbreak of the 1967 Six Day War, no one on earth, and certainly no Palestinians, were expressing the belief that Palestinians needed self-determination in the West Bank, on the East Bank, or in Gaza. Yet six days later, according to decades of historic revisionism ever since, the Palestinians are supposed to have morphed into a nation, desperately in need of their own state, unlike – say – the Kurds or Berbers, whose statelessness has never raises an eyebrow among the world’s compassionate classes. Indeed Palestinian statelessness was pronounced the nucleus of the entire Middle East conflict. But was it? Just what was the nucleus during the 20 years of conflict before 1967?

Arafat's Legacy for Europe

Bat Ye'or looks at the history of Europe's accommodation of Palestinian terrorism:
Europeans, in the tradition of dhimmitude, purchased their security by devising an alliance with the Arab League and the PLO against Israel.
Europe's long history of anti-semitism continues unabated and, increasingly, undisguised.