Day By Day

Friday, September 30, 2005

Zimbabwe Update -- The Health Care System is Crumbling

More bad news out of Mad Bobby Mugabe's terror state.

AP reports:

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) - Zimbabwe's state-run hospitals can't afford medicines and equipment because of foreign currency shortages and have had to turn away patients, a government newspaper reported Wednesday.

The Herald quoted Tendai Nyakuedzwa, a laboratory scientist at Chitungwiza General Hospital, as saying the foreign currency shortage had left the hospital unable to import materials to test for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. He also said equipment to test patients' responses to medication had been out of order for over a year.

Read it here.

Things just keep getting worse.

Abu Ghraib -- Let's Get the Whole Story Out!

A federal judge has ordered the release of more pictures taken at abu-Ghraib prison. WNBC reports:
A judge Thursday ordered the release of dozens of pictures of detainee abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison, rejecting government arguments that the images would provoke terrorists and incite violence against American troops in Iraq.

U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein said terrorists "do not need pretexts for their barbarism" and that suppressing the pictures would amount to submitting to blackmail. "Our nation does not surrender to blackmail, and fear of blackmail is not a legally sufficient argument to prevent us from performing a statutory command. Indeed, the freedoms that we champion are as important to our success in Iraq and Afghanistan as the guns and missiles with which our troops are armed," he said. Hellerstein ordered the release of 74 pictures and three videotapes from Abu Ghraib, potentially opening the military up to even more embarrassment from a scandal that prompted worldwide outrage against the U.S. when it broke in 2003.
Read it here.

The judge is absolutely right when he says that radical Islamists are going to attack and kill Americans regardless of whether photos are released or not. He was also right to emphasize that the people have a right to know the full extent of the abuses committed by our troops.

Yes, release of the pictures will make diplomacy more difficult in some quarters, and the America-haters at home and abroad will have a field day, and the administration will most certainly take a hit -- but keeping them hidden, now that everyone knows they exist, will only give free rein to the imaginations of our critics. The liklihood is that they are worse than the pictures already revealed, but they can't be as bad as the images our imaginations can conjure.

In a related story,

Lisa Meyers of MSNBC reports:
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - The Pentagon has been actively prosecuting every soldier involved in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal. But in an exclusive interview an active duty U.S. Army captain says it's not just rogue, low-level soldiers behind the abuse of detainees in Iraq. He says there's a culture in the high ranks of the military that allowed the abuse to occur.
Read the whole thing here.

NBC is pushing this story hard, and has an obvious agenda, but this cannot be ignored or minimized. The military leaders must be held to account for abuses committed by troops under their command.

Get the story out, once and for all, dammit!

Fake But Necessary -- A New Media Standard

Hugh Hewitt, writing in the Weekly Standard, notes a disturbing element in media justifications of their disgraceful behavior during the Katrina aftermath.

Discussing the meltdown on MSNBC on September 27, reporter Heath Allen defended the hysterical reporting, arguing that, "[I]t's the responsibility of the photojournalist to capture that and put it on television because those people at that point needed help no matter what was true, what was false, what was exaggerated."

Thus is established the "fake but necessary" corollary to the Rathergate doctrine of "fake but true."

It is getting very hard to take these people seriously.

Read it here.

Are Bloggers Biased? Prof. Meyers Thinks So

Philip Meyer, professor of journalism at University of North Carolina, has a nasty little think piece in USA Today in which he concludes, on the basis of one example, that while the internet may have democratized the dissemination of news, it has also exposed the deep racist character of bloggerdom.

He starts with a picture of Lee Benboom, a white woman who was photographed outside New Orleans convention center during the terrible aftermath of Katrina, holding her dehydrated baby in her arms. The picture was broadcast nationally, donations to help the distressed woman and child flowed in, she was identified by relatives and found in a shelter and rescued. He then goes on to wonder why there was no similar national response to any of the black people who appear in the background of the picture.

His answer -- bloggers are racists. They respond to a picture of a white woman, but care nothing about blacks.

He then goes on to lament the lack of editors on the blogosphere. He admits that newspapers were once racist instititutions, but now, he argues, editors have transcended their bias and eliminated at least the outward manifestations of racism. In bloggerdom, however, editors are nonexistent and the deep racial bias of the bloggy masses becomes apparent in their sympathetic response to a picture of a white woman in distress. He ends with an admonition not to forget the anonymous black faces.

Read the story here.

This is unmitigated horse hockey. The picture was taken by a photographer for the Houston Chronicle, disseminated by the Associated Press, and was seen by Lee's relatives when it appeared in their local paper, the Wilmington, N.C. Star News. At each stage in this process the image and accompanying commentary was subject to professional editorial oversight. This story was not spread by bloggers, but by news professionals operating through their regular channels. If the picture's prominence reflects racial bias, it is that of the professional editors, not of the readers.

Certainly the picture sparked a response among bloggers, but here Prof. Meyers' analysis is deeply flawed. A student of his who works in Wilmington interviewed the woman and her family and noted that they had received contributions and expressions of concern from bloggers. This is the extent of his evidence. But this is hardly a representative sample of the blogosphere. How many other bloggers responded to pictures of black refugees but did not know how to help because they didn't know who's face appeared in the picture? How many saw relatives and tried to trace them? How many felt an urge to help the refugees regardless of color? Prof. Meyers does not know nor does he care. Any competent researcher knows that you cannot generalize the characteristics of a group from one isolated instance.

Yet Prof. Meyers leaps immediately to the conclusion that bloggers are biased and editors are not, when clearly the evidence suggests the converse may be true. Why should he do so?.

Here I am going to generalize from a single case, but you all can think of many others.

Meyers is a representative of a particularly insufferable class of people -- well-to-do southern liberals who grew up through the Civil Rights Era and were marked by it. Such people see racism everywhere. Usually associated with the Democratic Party, they are anything but democratic. They are heirs to the southern tradition of planter paternalism that embodies a profound distrust of democracy and of the unwashed masses it empowers. Their political equation is simple. Common people are ignorant racists and therefore democracy, by empowering the common man. is empowering racism and ignorance. Much better for real control to remain in the hands of an educated elite whose superior moral sensibilities can overcome the base instincts of the masses and guide them into the paths of moral righteousness [oh yes, there is an unmistakable aura of sanctimony in all of this].

You know the type. Think of Jimmy Carter; Howell Raines; in Prof. Meyers' home state Terry Sanford. Sanctimonious rich white guys who are deeply convinced that everyone else is corrupt and morally incompetent.

Fortunately power has long since slipped from the hands of these men. Their day has passed and the democracy of the internet, which they so lament, is sweeping them into a well-deserved obscurity.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Pennsylvania Evolution Debate Update -- Allegations of Intimidation

The WaPo reports:

HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 27 -- Parents in federal court Tuesday described an atmosphere of intimidation and anger when school board members in Dover, Pa., last year decided to require high school biology teachers to read a statement that casts doubt on the theory of evolution.

Bryan Rehm, a parent who also taught physics at Dover High School, testified of continual pressure from board members not to "teach monkeys-to-man evolution." He said that the board required teachers to watch a film critical of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and that board members talked openly of teaching creationism alongside evolution.

The atmosphere became so heated that neighbors began to call him an "atheist with . . . a lot of words added on to it," Rehm said. He said that "it was turning into a real zoo" and that students were quarreling about evolution.

Rehm is one of 11 people from Dover, a small town south of Harrisburg, who want to block their school board from requiring the reading of that four-paragraph statement that criticizes evolutionary theory.

Read the whole thing here.

I'm not sure what the problem is here -- no reputable evolutionary scientist or informed teacher of science would teach anything so crude as "monkeys to man" evolution. That is a nineteenth century caricature of Darwin's theory. And what is so bad about students becoming so involved in a subject that they are "quarreling over evolution?" If the teacher is interested in education rather than indocrination this seems like an ideal learning experience from which all sides could learn. The guy sorta sounds like a classroom martinet, handing down authoritative pronouncements that students are then required to regurgitate.

In subsequent testimony, AP reports:

HARRISBURG, Pa. – The concept of "intelligent design" is a form of creationism and is not based on scientific method, a professor testified Wednesday in a trial over whether the idea should be taught in public schools.

Robert T. Pennock, a professor of science and philosophy at Michigan State University, testified on behalf of families who sued the Dover Area School District. He said supporters of intelligent design don't offer evidence to support their idea.

"As scientists go about their business, they follow a method," Pennock said. "Intelligent design wants to reject that and so it doesn't really fall within the purview of science."

Pennock said intelligent design does not belong in a science class, but added that it could possibly be addressed in other types of courses.

Read it here.

Here we have a matter of definition. "Science" by definition follows a methodology that excludes any supernatural agency. Therefore "Intelligent Design" which posits such agency cannot be "science." This is incontestable so long as we confine our understandings to the strictures of "science" so defined. But this is essentially a definitional dispute. Evolutionary science, except in the hands of a few hyper-Darwinist zealots, admits a role for contingency or randomness in evolutionary processes and so long as it does it cannot exclude, except through arbitrary definition, the possibility of supernatural agency. Unless one is willing to see evolutionary processes as deterministic and total explanations of everything perceived in the natural world, (and few would be willing to push things that far) the possibility of supernatural agency exists, even if it cannot be admitted as "science."

Again, I don't see the problem with admitting that, while science does not accept the idea of supernatural agency, it does not ultimately exclude it either. Why does the subject of human origins have to be taught in a rigidly exclusionary manner? I know many scientists who have no problem affirming a belief in both scientific principles and divine providence.

I an reminded that in the first day of testimony, a mother objected to a policy that allowed her daughter to leave the classroom during the reading of a statement to the effect that some people disagreed with some points in Darwinian theory. The reason for excusing her was that she might be "confused" by what she heard and the objection to excusing her was that it marked her as holding different beliefs from other students.

Here we are encountering dogmatism and intellectual arrogance -- not education.

Finally, there is this snarky piece from [where else?] San Francisco.

Joan Ryan writes:

With weary regularity, my 15-year-old son flips aside his pencil and, slumping in his chair, asks why a person with no intention of becoming a physicist or mathematician should be tortured with science and algebra. He doesn't yet see the value in learning the principles of logic, or the orderliness of the scientific method to test hypotheses.

I wipe my son's sweaty brow.

"It's so you don't grow up to be an idiot like the school board members in Dover, Pa.,'' I tell him.

Read the whole thing here.

Actually, the son's question is reasonable. There is little utility to be gained from much of what is learned in such classes. They exist simply for the purpose of inculcating right thinking in the public. Acceptance of a strictly scientific view of human origins is, in some circles, considered evidence of right thinking, and any other thought carries a social stigma -- being considered an "idiot" by the right thinkers. Of course, here we are once again venturing into the land of dogmatic struggle. If someone wishes to assert that evolution proceeds without supernatural agency, that's fine with me; and if someone wishes to assert that God in some way guided the process of evolution, that's also fine. In the larger scheme of things it doesn't really matter.

In his Pulitzer Prize winning study of the Scopes trial, Summer For the Gods, [purchase from Amazon by clicking one of the adverisements at the top of the page] Edward Larson notes that in the early Twentieth Century, prominent scientists and theologans [including fundamentalists] were coming to a general agreement regarding human origins, but that the popular press consistently emphasized differences and promoted extreme positions rather than emphasizing broad areas of agreement in order to create a dramatic confrontation. It would seem that today, as it was a century ago, the worst, egged on by the media, are filled with passionate intensity.


No sooner do we get the Gulf hurricanes behind us and have settled back into business as usual -- pointing fingers, destroying careers and people, and maneuvering for political advantage, and looking for missing hot blondes -- than nature grabs the headlines again.

Wildfires are raging across a wide swath of the California countryside.

So far the containment crews have performed splendidly and there has been no loss of life, or much property for that matter.

One striking point comes across in the coverage -- that is competence. The local and state officials seem to be in Giuliani mode. There are no hysterical rants or pleas, no dithering. They have deployed their resources, give regular factual updates telling the media exactly what they're doing and why, and chart their progress in a reasonable and measured way. The residents are behaving responsibly too, evacuating in an orderly manner, et mirabile dictu, the media seem to be on good behavior, reporting what is happening, not what their fevered, racist imaginations could conjure.

Story here.

Yesterday was a perfect day in the mountains. Seventy degrees, a nice breeze, clear skies, bright sunshine. Naturally I went walking.

We are near the beginning of the migration season for Eastern raptors and there was some wind, so I had hopes of seeing a few hawks, maybe a falcon or even an eagle, but it was not to be -- only one lonely turkey vulture, not even a red-tail.

Anyway, these are a few of the things I did see. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Katrina -- The Anatomy of a Myth

Gateway Pundit has a useful item by item comparison of the rumors reported in the MSM during the Katrina disaster and the facts as determined afterward. Read it here.

What is interesting is not that the MSM got almost everything wrong, but to ask why there should have been so much misreporting. A few thoughts:

Part of it is obviously racism. The refugee population was overwhelmingly black and that colored the perceptions of the media. White media folk [overwhemingly liberal in their orientation] were willing to believe that poor blacks were prone to the most despicable behaviors and reported rumors of cannibalism, rape [of babies], widespread assaults and murders, etc. as fact.

But there is far more than simple racism working here. Middle-class and elite blacks in positions of power also accepted and even embellished these rumors. Here we see a profound antipathy, even fear, being expressed by affluent and powerful blacks toward the black under-class.

A common point of reference for everyone involved seems to have been the LA riots that were characterized by widespread looting and violence. The Katrina situation was interpreted as a replay of those earlier atrocities. The assumption (which seems to be widespread and deeply engrained in American liberal culture) was that once controls were lifted urban blacks would immediately descend into savagry. This speaks to a profound insecurity and guilt at the heart of affluent, liberal America, both black and white.

Foreign commentators seized on and reported as fact the most extreme of the rumors floating around because these confirmed their belief that America is an oppressive, racist, brutally uncaring society [as opposed to their loving, caring, socialist collectives]. Cracked political theory thus shaped coverage to a certain amount, especially when left-leaning American media and academic types allowed this foreign disdain to bleed back into their own coverage and commentary.

Black racist ideologues in the US gladly embraced tales of horror and mayhem as a means of validating their broader indictment of American society -- I'm talkin' bout you..., Rev. Al, and Rev. Jesse, and especially Rev. Louis and all you cynical crackpot "Revs." out there. Their message in this, as in other cases, seemed to be -- "if you don't throw some Danegeld our way and fast these outraged and dangerous people will destroy everything."

Many Cconservative commentators and reporters [yes there are some] joined in the mess either because the worst case scenario confirmed a Hobbesean vision of society or because it confirmed their indictment of a welfare state that engenders depravity and irresponsibility.

Many cynical politicians saw in Katrina an opportunity to attack the current administration and its policies -- the extravagent myths simply made their case seem more convincing and pertinent so they embraced and spread them.

And, there is no denying that there was disorder and hysteria outside the Convention center. NBC cameras caught it all and replayed it over and over and over and over, lending credence to the belief that anarchy had been loosed upon the world.

Finally, there is the last refuge of the media cynic -- pervasive and extravagent disorder is a dramatic story to tell and the MSM is in the business of telling dramatic stories, not informing people.

Curiouser and Curiouser -- Mayor Nagin and Calypso Louie

Mayor Nagin of New Orleans always seemed to be a bit flakey, but not particularly malignant, but now this makes me wonder...

Newsmax reports:

Racially polarizing Nation of Islam chief Louis Farrakhan claimed on Friday that he had a private meeting with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, where Nagin gave him the information that Farrakhan later used to claim New Orleans' levees had been deliberately blown up.

Speaking to a gathering of his supporters in Memphis while promoting his upcoming Millions More March, Farrakhan said he met with Nagin in Dallas, Texas where the New Orleans mayor has relocated his family.

"We did a whirlwind tour where we hired a chartered jet, we flew to Dallas, Texas - members of the Millions More Movement - where we met with Mayor Nagin," Farrakhan claimed, in videotape of his Memphis speech posted to his Millions More Movement web site Tuesday.

It was during that meeting, Farrakhan said, where he obtained evidence that he would later use to claim New Orleans' levees were blown up.

There's more...,

In the same address to the Memphis Millions More rally, Farrakhan said Nagin told him that white racists used attack dogs and machine guns to keep blacks from escaping the Superdome.

"Mayor Nagin told us that those poor brothers and sisters that went to the Superdome, these were the ones who made it out of their houses but didn't have any money or means to get out of the city . . . So when the water began to rise around the Superdome, Mayor Nagin told them to get out and start marching over the bridge, the I-10, and get out of here. So they started marching. And when they got over that bridge into the next parish, which was white, they were met with attack dogs and machine guns."

Farrakhan claimed that Mayor Nagin told him warning shots were fired to keep the black evacuees at bay.

"This is Mayor Nagin talking to us," he told the Memphis gathering. "They fired the machine guns over the heads of the crowd. They accepted any white people that were there, but no black people."

Read it here.

If true, this is verrrrry interrresssting.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Pennsylvania Evolution Debate Update

The Harrisburg Federal Court hearing deciding whether or not the Dover School Board can mandate the teaching of Intelligent Design in public schools entered its second day today.

Yesterday was confined to opening statements and expert testimony to the effect that "Science" does not admit any supernatural agency in explaining natural processes.

Regarding today's testimony, AP reports:
HARRISBURG, Pa. - A rural school board showed a clear bias against teaching evolution before it pushed through a plan to introduce "intelligent design" to students, a former board member testified Tuesday in a trial over whether the concept has a place in public schools.

Aralene "Barrie" Callahan, who was once on the Dover school board and is now among the challengers, said she believed the policy to teach intelligent design was religion-based.


Callahan testified that board member Alan Bonsell — during a retreat in 2003 — "expressed he did not believe in evolution and if evolution was part of the biology curriculum, creationism had to be shared 50-50."

At a school board meeting in June 2004, when she was no longer on the board, Callahan recalled board member Bill Buckingham complaining that a biology book recommended by the administration was "laced with Darwinism."

"They were pretty much downplaying evolution as something that was credible," she said.

In the lawsuit challenging the intelligent design policy, Buckingham was further quoted as saying: "This country was founded on Christianity and our students should be taught as such."


In a separate development Tuesday, two freelance newspaper reporters who covered the school board in June 2004 both invoked their First Amendment rights and declined to provide a deposition to lawyers for the school district.

Both are expected in court Wednesday to respond to a subpoena to testify at trial, said Niles Benn, a lawyer for the papers.

Lawyers for the school district have questioned the accuracy of articles in which the reporters wrote that board members discussed creationism during public meetings. Patrick Gillen, an attorney with the Thomas More Law Center, said the defense would ask U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III on Wednesday to issue a contempt citation.

In other testimony Tuesday, plaintiff Tammy Kitzmiller said that in January, her younger daughter chose not to hear the intelligent-design statement — an option given all students — putting her in an awkward position.

"My 14-year-old daughter had to make the choice between staying in the classroom and being confused ... or she had to be singled out and face the possible ridicule of her friends and classmates," she said.

Read it here.

This is Soooooo Cool!!! -- Photos of a Live Giant Squid

Reuters reports:
LONDON (Reuters) - Japanese scientists have taken the first photographs of one of the most mysterious creatures in the deep ocean -- the giant squid.

Until now the only information about the behavior of the creatures which measure up to 18 meters (59 feet) in length has been based on dead or dying squid washed up on shore or captured in commercial fishing nets.

But Tsunemi Kubodera, of the National Science Museum, and Kyoichi Mori of the Ogasawara Whale Watching Association, both in Tokyo have captured the first images of Architeuthis attacking bait 900 meters (yards) below the surface in the cold, dark waters of the North Pacific.

Read it here.

Check out the "Giant Squid and Colossal Squid Fact Sheet" here.

New Orleans Police Chief Resigns

AP reports:
NEW ORLEANS - Police Superintendent Eddie Compass resigned Tuesday after four turbulent weeks in which the police force was wracked by desertions and disorganization in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath.

As the city slipped into anarchy during the first few days after Katrina, the 1,700-member police department itself suffered a crisis. Many officers deserted their posts, and some were accused of joining in the looting that broke out. Two officers Compass described as friends committed suicide.

Neither Compass nor Mayor Ray Nagin would say whether Compass was pressured to leave.


At the height of the Katrina chaos, Compass fed the image of lawlessness in the city by publicly repeating allegations that people were being beaten and babies raped at the convention center, where thousands of evacuees had taken shelter. The allegations have since proved largely unsubstantiated.

Before Katrina hit, Compass already had his hands full with an understaffed police department and a skyrocketing murder rate, even as the rate dropped dramatically in other cities.

Despite more than 10 years of reform efforts dating to before Compass took office, police were dogged by allegations of brutality and corruption. Several studies indicated that the public's reluctance to cooperate with police was a factor in the city's crime problem.

Read it here.

Video here.

Ankle-Biting Pundits suggest candidates to replace him here.

King KO's Matthews

In case you missed it, Rep. Peter King's magnificent demolition of Democrat media bully Chris Matthews is here, thanks to the Political Teen.

Brownie Bites Back and In the Process Provides Some Useful Perspective


Michael Brown, former FEMA Director, testified today in front of the Congressional Committee investigating the response to hurricane Katrina. [CNN video here] He pulled no punches, arguing that FEMA had instituted time-tested procedures that had worked well in other emergencies and laying primary blame on local and State officials in Louisiana who could not get their acts together and on an out-of-control media that seriously misrepresented the true situation that was unfolding along the Gulf Coast.

The WaPo reports:

Michael D. Brown, the ousted director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, appeared before a House panel this morning and blamed Louisiana officials for what he called a "dysfunctional" response to Hurricane Katrina, which killed more than 1,000 people and caused hundreds of billions of dollars in damage on the Gulf Coast.

Brown also strongly defended himself against what he said were "false, defamatory statements" spread by the news media about his qualifications.


Brown acknowledged "a couple of specific mistakes I made." But in explaining them, he cast blame on the governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, and the mayor of New Orleans, C. Ray Nagin, both Democrats. By contrast, Brown told the committee, FEMA's approach worked in Mississippi and Alabama, whose governors are both Republicans.

Of the disastrous flooding that stranded thousands for days in New Orleans, Brown said in prepared testimony, "The only variable was the state government officials involved."


The way FEMA works with state officials in disasters is "well established and works well," Brown said in emphatic tones in his opening statement, pointing his finger and shaking a clenched hand at lawmakers. "Unfortunately, this is the approach that FEMA had great difficulty in getting established in Louisiana."

Brown said one of his mistakes was that he "failed to set up regular briefings to the media" and instead "became tied" to television news shows in the morning and late at night. As for his second mistake, he said, "I very strongly, personally regret that I was unable to persuade Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin to sit down, get over their differences and work together. . . . I just couldn't pull that off."

All of these are valid points. FEMA has functioned well under Brown's direction in many other disaster situations where there was cooperation from state and local officials; responsibility for evacuation lies with the primary responders, State and local officials; the media did distort for dramatic effect what was going on in New Orleans, reporting rumors as fact; and the media piling on afterward was repugnant. So far there has been little inclination by either national politicians or the MSM to investigate these aspects of the case. It makes a better storyline, and is more politically useful to blame FEMA and the President. This is not to say that Dubya and Brown are without sin in this affair.

Partisan Clowning:

The article further notes:

Partisan positioning began even before Brown made his way past a gantlet of television cameras at the House Rayburn Office Building.
Of course, what do you expect from these clowns? Partisan positioning is what they do.

Read the whole article here.

Media Malfeasance:

MSNBC reports:

Brown blamed “a hysteric media” for compounding the crisis with what he said were unfounded reports of rapes and murders. He characterized blunt-spoken Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, the military coordinator for the disaster, as “a bull in the China closet, God love him.”
Read it here.

There is a tacit admission in the MSM coverage of Gen. Honore's statements that they have in many cases been "stuck on stupid." They, however, are not eager to go beyond that point and to systematically examine the nature and dimensions of their distortion. In fact, many are in a celebratory mode and praise the new subjectivity as somehow more authentic than actually reporting facts. There are, however, a couple of notable exceptions to this general self-congratulation.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune has a devastating piece on the extent of misinformation broadcast on the MSM.

Nearly a month after the storm, officials have come up with no hard evidence to back up stories of murder, rape and other violence that supposedly happened among those who took shelter in those places. No matter how convincing the eye witness accounts, the bodies that back up their stories aren't there.

The toll, after careful inspection, is as follows: four dead in the Convention Center, one by violence: six dead in the Superdome, none by violence. While there were reports of 30 to 40 dead in the Convention Center and 10 to numerous in the Dome, the actual tally has to be given more credibility than unconfirmed reports by traumatized people. During the chaotic week that followed Hurricane Katrina, four confirmed murders took place in New Orleans, a number that's not at all surprising or even unusual for a city that expected to see as many as 200 homicides this year.

Bad things certainly happened. That many people jammed together with inadequate food, water, medicine and toilet facilities and a growing sense of abandonment and desperation suffered enormously. But they shouldn't also be maligned as lawless or even, to use Mayor Nagin's unfortunate word, animalistic.

Contrast [National Guard] Sgt. Lachney's comments with those of Superintendent Compass. During an interview with Oprah Winfrey, he said that babies were being raped. Mayor Nagin said that hundreds of armed gang members were killing and raping people inside the Dome.

The people of Louisiana need solid information and credible leaders as we move toward recovery. Katrina inflicted a lot of damage on the truth, and that's just one more mess we need to clean up. [emphasias mine]

Read the whole thing here.

The LA Times builds on the Times-Picayune piece to document even more media malfeasance and its consequences. The piece notes,

a 24-hour rumor mill at New Orleans' main evacuation shelter. Then a frenzied media [that] recycled and amplified many of the unverified reports.
"[The Superdome] just morphed into this mythical place where the most unthinkable deeds were being done...."
The media's explanation:

Journalists and officials who have reviewed the Katrina disaster blamed the inaccurate reporting in large measure on the breakdown of telephone service, which prevented dissemination of accurate reports to those most in need of the information. Race may have also played a factor....

The wild rumors filled the vacuum and seemed to gain credence with each retelling.

How's that again? Exactly how did race play a part?

Times-Picayune Editor Jim Amoss cited telephone breakdowns as a primary cause of reporting errors, but said the fact that most evacuees were poor African Americans also played a part.

"If the dome and Convention Center had harbored large numbers of middle class white people," Amoss said, "it would not have been a fertile ground for this kind of rumor-mongering."
Oh, I see. The reporters were bigoted. Of course those pictures that NBC showed at least a couple of thousand times of hysterical black faces outside the convention center helped to foster the idea that the place was a madhouse.

Hyperbolic reporting spread through much of the media.

I'll say! To give the Times credit, they don't excuse themselves.

And, of course, local officials are also blamed.

Some of the hesitation that journalists might have had about using the more sordid reports from the evacuation centers probably fell away when New Orleans' top officials seemed to confirm the accounts.

Nagin and Police Chief Eddie Compass appeared on "Oprah" a few days after trouble at the Superdome had peaked.

Compass told of "the little babies getting raped" at the Superdome. And Nagin made his claim about hooligans raping and killing.
Reporters are prisoners of their sources, I guess, and are incapable of exercising independent judgment, except of course when they are condemning the President.

And these reports were not without consequences.

The media inaccuracies had consequences in the disaster zone.... [R]eports of corpses at the Superdome filtered back to the facility via AM radio, undermining his struggle to keep morale up and maintain order.

Read the whole thing here.

It is clear that a great deal of what we thought we knew about what was going on during Katrina was due to a media fenzy fed by unprofessionalism on the part of media figures and by grotesque misrepresentations of fact by local officials and traumatized witnesses. The media should take a major hit here. Their claims to credibility have been blown out of the water. But they are fighting back.


Chris Matthews has an NBC reporter on testifying that at the Convention Center she actually saw one dead body and "heard stories" about terrible things going on inside. In other words, one dead body and rumors amounted to sufficient documentation for the wild stories she and her colleagues were reporting at the time. This is nonsense. I have no doubt that she accurately reported her subjective feelings as she covered the story, but as a media professional we should expect more out of her and her ilk than that. The MSM, contrary to their numerous assertions, did not cover itself with glory in the Katrina coverage. They did, however, provide lots of drama that critics of the administration find useful.

During Brown's testimony, FOXNews had media commentators speaking, all of whom agreed that Brown was being "mean" and was unfairly trying to shift blame onto the media. Faugh!

Chris Matthews has Dana Milbank, Howard Fineman, and Time's Mike Allen. They branded Brownie as "arrogant and defensive" "nasty and accusatory" [not a bad way to characterize their own reactions]. They shift focus away from media malfeasance and instead characterize his testimony as an indictment of Bush and Tom Ridge. They judge his appearance as a disaster for the White House. Double-faugh!!!

John Podhoretz has a more responsible reaction:

So we now have two major reports -- one on the New Orleans Times Picayune website and the other in the L.A. Times -- about the way in which the major media spread all sorts of hysteria about the conditions inside flooded New Orleans. How will this jibe with all the talk about how the media threw off its self-imposed shackles after 9/11 and found their critical and passionate voice yet again? Doubtless both will receive praise from the MSM itself -- the early reporters for their "commitment" and the later correctives for their honesty. For the rest of us, though, this is a moment for reflection. I think everyone was very credulous, willing to believe almost any story that was told, because we were seeing something we'd never seen before -- an American city under water, footage of uniformed cops actually looting stores in front of news cameras, and people confused and trapped in extremely unpleasant conditions. There can be no doubt that it was a nightmarish experience to have been stuck at the convention center, but it wasn't, as it turned out, a shooting gallery or a death sentence.

The unprecedented nature of the story as it was should have been enough for everybody. Instead, far too many people -- from cable-news folks to reporters to bloggers -- ended up retailing fiction as fact.

Read it here.

The Money Quote:

AP leads with Brown's summary statement:

"My biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday that Louisiana was dysfunctional..."
and then lapses into incoherence, concluding:

In part of his testimony, Brown pumped his hand up and down for emphasis.

Read it here.

Brown's statement is seen as an attempt to excuse his performance, but in fact it is damning. The essential fact, made by Chris Dodd, was that nobody was willing to take charge and pull the various competing incompetents together in a common effort. Brown, as FEMA head, should have done that and he didn't. He relied on past procedures and deference to first responders and dithered when he should have acted decisively.That was his fatal mistake.

The same could be said regarding his boss, the current occupant of the Oval Office. He did not take the whole situation seriously enough fast enough, and in that particular he failed.

Remember, though, one of the major criticisms of Bush, reiterated time after time, was that he was out of touch -- how could he not know how bad things were when it was being reported by the major media? Well, maybe he knew better than they did just how things were in New Orleans.

Juan Cole Exposed Again

Juan Cole, who flaunts substantial "academic" credentials as an Iraq expert, but who apparently has never been to the country and can only "get by" in Arabic, gets his comeuppance yet again in Iraqpundit.

I lost all respect for Cole some time ago when he responded to a couple of his Iraqi critics by branding them "CIA plants." That was a totally irresponsible and unfounded charge, and a dangerous one -- the kind that gets people killed.

Here, his claim to have a "command" of Arabic is exposed as something less than true, and humiliatingly so.

Things like this raise a serious question as to the validity of "academic" credentials in certifying an individuals' level of expertise. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently questioned the psychological competence of highly-credentialed academics [here]. The failure of the peer review system to root out intellectual shortcomings in many highly publicized cases also calls into question other aspects of the entire credentialing system that is the primary reason for the existence of the modern university.

Read about Cole's humiliation here [hat tip to Instapundit].

My Third Space

Sociologists have defined a new kind of space increasingly inhabited by people whose work involves the manipulation of symbols rather than of materials. It is a place away from home with all its distractions, and from the office with all its demands. It is a place where a person can feel physically and emotionally comfortable, separate from but not isolated from the world around him -- an environment in which one can work happily and productively. They call it a "third space."

My third space, where I go when I need to get out of the house and have no interest in going to the office, has varied over time. Much of my last book was written in the food court of a small shopping mall about four blocks from the apartment where we lived. Today, when I'm in the city, I like to spend a little productive time here, about half a mile from where I currently reside.

It goes like this.

"She Who Shall Not Be Named" and her girlfriends go walking as a group nearly every morning. Their destinations vary, but the walk usually involves a stop at a coffee shop or one woman's home where they sit and chat and drink coffee.

A few years ago several husbands of the walking women started getting together occasionally. Eventually they started meeting twice a week at a coffee shop where the women never go -- sort of a "boys club" atmosphere. Over the years the group has grown to include a number of accomplished, even distinguished, individuals from a variety of professions. When I am in town on the appropriate days I join the group. The conversation is good -- interesting, often stimulating, and always fun. Lately my schedule has kept me from the meetings but I still go to the coffee shop on my own because I find it to be an ideal "third place" -- a nice place to start the day.

I usually like to get there early, before they are really open for sit-down business. There is a constant stream of young men and women darting in for a take-out cuppa on the way to work downtown. I hardly even notice them. Soon the place will be filled with the breakfast crowd, but for now it is almost empty except for me and a couple of other scribblers [at least one of whom is a fairly famous novelist] who, like me, find it a pleasant place to get a start on the day's output.

The only problem with coming in that early is that often the young people who work there have cranked the music up and are listening to the kind of stuff that young'uns enjoy these days. No problem -- that's what Bose headphones and an I-pod are for. Soon the owner emerges from his office, adjusts the sound level, and changes the music selection to light jazz or something equally unobtrusive. I don't pay much attention, my headphones stay on -- I always seem to work best listening to Mozart. So there I sit, cocooned with my coffee, free from distractions, happily reading or writing away.

Eventually the place begins to fill up with twenty- or thirty- somethings meeting for breakfast. They'll be wanting the table soon. So, I pack up my things and head on home, my head buzzing with ideas, carrying a scribbled outline or marked up xerox of an article that will keep me busy for the next few hours. On some rare occasions I will have actually produced a couple of pages of usable prose.

Such is life in the big [well..., medium-sized] city.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Intelligent Design Trial Starts in Pennsylvania

The LA Times reports:

DOVER, Pa. — In the beginning, members of the Dover Area School District board wrangled over what should be required in their high school biology curriculum.

Some were adamant that science teachers should stick with the widely taught theory of evolution and random selection. Others said the teaching of "intelligent design" should also be required, arguing that certain elements of life, like cell structure, are best explained by an intelligent cause.
Today, a trial begins over the board's decision last year ordering that students be taught about intelligent design and flaws in Charles Darwin's theories.

Several parents, fearing the intrusion of religion into public schooling, filed a lawsuit to block the policy, backed by American Civil Liberties Union attorneys.

Activists on both sides believe that the stakes are high in the case, which has divided this small rural town about 100 miles west of Philadelphia.

The proceedings in a Harrisburg federal court will be the first legal challenge to the mandatory teaching of intelligent design, which is championed by a growing number of Christian fundamentalists. The verdict, to be rendered by U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III, could have a profound impact on America's cultural wars over religion and its role in public life.

Witnesses are expected to debate whether the intelligent-design contention is scientifically valid, or a Trojan horse designed to subvert Darwin's theories.

Read it here.

CNN writeup here.
Reuters writeup here.

Really not much here yet. We had opening arguments from both sides, soundbite sized descriptions of the issues involved, and expert testimony to the effect that science excludes supernatural agency. That's it, for now...

Hoo boy, this is gonna be fun. Let the games begin....

Stay tuned...

Video report here.

Brian Lamb Ties the Knot

Hudson Morgan in the NY Daily News reports:
SECURITY CLEARANCE is what you apparently needed to attend the secret wedding last week of C-SPAN impresario Brian Lamb, a lifelong bachelor at age 63, to a hometown friend from Lafayette, Ind., known only as Victoria. "They were married in a small, private ceremony in the Washington area," a C-SPAN spokeswoman said mysteriously, "and Brian was in the office all week." Surely that's the kind of response that would prompt the deceptively soft-spoken Lamb - in one of his trademark interviews with a politician - to demand answer after answer. Anyhow, congratulations, Brian!
And the same from all of us.

Read it here.

Iraqi Sunnis Denounce Al-Qaeda

The Counterterrorism Blog notes:
Only days after Al-Qaida announced the completion of its latest campaign of violence aimed at avenging alleged "massacres" of Sunni Muslims in Tel Afar by the U.S. and Iraqi government, there are growing indications that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his Al-Qaida acolytes may be facing the most serious political and operational challenges they have encountered since they first joined the anti-coalition insurgency in mid-2003. The deadly glut of suicide bombings that began on September 8 has undoubtedly caused destruction and chaos--but militants were neither able to undermine the anti-insurgent operation in Tel Afar nor deter Iraqi government efforts to formulate a constitution. [English translations of Al-Qaida's various claims of responsibility for recent suicide bombing attacks are now posted online at]. Instead, renewed apparent threats from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to massacre both Shiite and Sunni "collaborators" have been warily received by many Iraqi Sunnis, leading the respected Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars to issue a statement strongly admonishing Zarqawi:

The AMS statement is indeed significant and represents compelling evidence of a real break between mainstream Sunni Iraqis and fringe Salafist extremists, including many foreign fighters drawn from across the Middle East.
Indeed it is.

Read the whole thing here.


Amir Tehari has a nice piece on Sunni attitudes in the NY Post:
September 26, 2005 -- THE next vote in Iraq is the Oct. 15 referendum on the nation's constitution, but the political elite is already turning its attention to the general elections scheduled for December.

Most Iraqi politicians now expect the constitution to be approved; fears have faded that Sunni Arabs might manage to vote it down. The optimism rises from several developments.

First, as more and more Sunni Arabs read the proposed text, now widely distributed, they realize it is not as bad as some of their self-styled leaders claimed. The latest suicide-killer attacks have also come as a wake-up call to Sunnis not to let terrorists provoke a sectarian war.

A passionate plea for national unity came Sept. 16 from Sheik Mahmoud al-Sumaidaei, the spiritual leader of Sunni Arabs. Speaking at the Um al-Qura Mosque in Baghdad, al-Sumaidaei called for a national conference to find a common strategy against terror. "We don't need others to come across the border and kill us in the name of defending us," he said, a reference to Arab terrorists who have joined the insurgency under the banner of al Qaeda. "We reject the killing of any Iraqi."
The parading of captured Arab terrorists on TV has brought home another truth: The "insurgency" is mainly a foreign invasion by forces that wish to impose on Iraq a Taliban-style government. "The insurgency has nothing to do with Iraqis," says Adnan al-Dulaimi, a prominent Sunni Arab tribal chief and political leader. "[The terrorists] chased out of Afghanistan want to set up shop in Iraq."

Read it here.

All in all things look good. The Sunnis are apparently not going to boycott; even the punk al-Sadr has withdrawn his call for boycott; and Sistani has pledged to stay out of the maneuvering for national elections after the Constitution is accepted. The terror campaign continues, but has not had the effect Zarqawi anticipated. Iraq, rather than sliding down the road to civil war is earning, with the blood of its citizens, a national constituency. A nation is being born.

The Fiend Machine Strikes Again

From the NY Post:



What about some stories about the SUV's that carried people away from impending hurricanes and floods?

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go In the Water Again

The Observer reports:
Armed and dangerous - Flipper the firing dolphin let loose by Katrina

It may be the oddest tale to emerge from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Armed dolphins, trained by the US military to shoot terrorists and pinpoint spies underwater, may be missing in the Gulf of Mexico.

Experts who have studied the US navy's cetacean training exercises claim the 36 mammals could be carrying 'toxic dart' guns. Divers and surfers risk attack, they claim, from a species considered to be among the planet's smartest. The US navy admits it has been training dolphins for military purposes, but has refused to confirm that any are missing.

Dolphins have been trained in attack-and-kill missions since the Cold War. The US Atlantic bottlenose dolphins have apparently been taught to shoot terrorists attacking military vessels. Their coastal compound was breached during the storm, sweeping them out to sea. But those who have studied the controversial use of dolphins in the US defence programme claim it is vital they are caught quickly.

Note the Observer's usual disregard for accuracy. They say that these lethal critters "may be missing" and note that the US Navy does not confirm that any are missing, but that doesn't stop these newshounds. They then go on to write a story assuming that lethally-armed bottlenosed dolphins are swimming around the gulf training their sights on surfers and divers. Don't let facts get in the way of a good story, especially one that slams the US military.

Their source? A 72 year-old "respected accident investigator." OK!

Read it here.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Now This Is Disturbing

USA Today reports:

Currently, 135 women receive bachelor's degrees for every 100 men. That gender imbalance will widen in the coming years, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Education.

This is ominous for every parent with a male child. The decline in college attendance means many will needlessly miss out on success in life. The loss of educated workers also means the country will be less able to compete economically. The social implications — women having a hard time finding equally educated mates — are already beginning to play out.

But the inequity has yet to provoke the kind of response that finally opened opportunities for women a generation ago. In fact, virtually no one is exploring the obvious questions: What has gone wrong? And what happens to all the boys who aren't in college?

Some join the armed forces, but the size of the military has remained steady, at about 1.4 million, for the past decade. For the rest, the prospects appear dark:

Read the whole thing here.

I had been aware of this problem for some time but didn't realize that the ratios were as imbalanced as that. The article goes on to suggest a couple of reasons for the discrepancy:

1) The feminization of teaching at all levels has created a hostile environment for young men. This can be countered to some extent by hiring more male teachers.

2) In contemporary youth culture "smart-isn't-cool."How to counter this I haven't a clue, but having male role models in the school systems is a start.

I would note that out educational systems from top to bottom are now suffering a crisis of legitimacy that is not noted in this article. The industrial model of education that emerged during the Progressive Era just is no longer functional in our modern economy and pressure for radical change is building in a number of quarters.

In the past, the feminization of a profession or occupational category has resulted in its loss of status and economic rewards. Perhaps we are seeing that cultural process being applied to educational institutions and the teaching profession at all levels. If so we can look forward to a dramatic decline in the economic and cultural value of a college degree, a dilution of universities' credentialling function, a decline in the status and pay of the professoriat, and the elimination of academic freedom.

Now stop and think -- don't we already see those processes taking place?

I have long questioned whether a college-level education was appropriate for most young people. The system as currently constituted requires young men and women to remain in a marginal state of prolonged adolescence well into their twenties, and even into their thirties. By the time a young man or woman takes his first serious job he or she has spent seventeen or eighteen years in all-encompassing educational institutions. This, I would argue, is neither natural nor good for the individuals or for society.

Apologists for the system argue that today's economy requires high skill levels that can only be achieved through a prolonged and intensive educational process, but that is patently false. Employers constantly complain that they have to retrain worker fresh out of college. The essential skills are learned at the workplace, not in the classroom. And, stop to think just how much of the educational experience is directly applicable to the demands of employment. Not much, if you are honest about it.

If the industrial model for education was a product of the Progressive Era, the extended learning process was a post-WWII response to a critical labor surplus. The post-war labor glut produced by millions of young men returning from the service was exacerbated by the civil rights reforms that moved millions of minority workers from the margins into the mainstream of the American workforce, and then by the abolition of the draft which meant that millions of young men who otherwise would have spent time in the service were now mainstreamed directly into the labor force, and finally by feminism which moved millions of young women into the labor force.

Starting with the GI Bill and the National Defense Education Act America responded to the labor glut by vastly expanding our educational institutions at all levels and subsidizing the warehousing of young people in those environments. As the labor pressure has increased so, too has the educational establishment. Then in the 1970's, as women increasingly moved out of the home and into the workplace and as single motherhood flourished, educational institutions again expanded into total environments wherein young people spent more and more of their waking time.

Maybe it's time for a general reassessment of the entire Brobdingnagian structure. I think it's coming, whether or not educators are prepared for it.

Good News from Ireland, We Hope!

BELFAST, Northern Ireland — International weapons inspectors have supervised the full disarmament of the outlawed Irish Republican Army, a long-sought goal of Northern Ireland's peace process, an aide to the process' monitor said Sunday.

The IRA permitted two independent witnesses, including a Methodist minister and a Roman Catholic priest close to Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, to view the secret disarmament work conducted by officials from Canada, Finland and the United States, the aide to retired Canadian Gen. John de Chastelain said on condition of anonymity.

"I am confident that tomorrow will bring the final chapter on the issue of IRA arms," said Martin McGuinness, the deputy leader of the IRA-linked Sinn Fein who plans to travel Tuesday to Washington to seek U.S. political support for the IRA's actions. "I believe that Ireland stands on the cusp of a truly historic advance, and I hope that people across the island will respond positively in the time ahead."

The breakthrough should smash the biggest stumbling block in Northern Ireland's peace process since Britain opened negotiations with Sinn Fein in December 1994.

Unfortunately, most politicians and analysts agree, the IRA move is coming years too late to kickstart the revival of a Roman Catholic-Protestant administration, the central dream of Northern Ireland's 1998 peace accord. That complex, landmark agreement required the IRA to disarm by May 2000.

Years of denial and delay have sharpened Protestant distrust of Sinn Fein. Moderates willing to take risks were trounced in elections by hard-liners.

The Rev. Ian Paisley, whose uncompromising Democratic Unionist Party represents most Protestants today, has dismissed the coming IRA moves as inadequate. Paisley insists on photographs, a detailed record and a Paisley-approved Protestant clergyman to serve as an independent witness.

This is good news if it's true. Of course it's hard to believe that either Sinn Fein or the DUP is ever acting in good faith. Reagan's motto "trust, but verify" applies to any gesture offered by either side in this incredibly stupid conflict. Paisley is right to insist on independent verification, but his remarks are hardly helpful.

Read the story here.


It was a nice day at the harbor. Overcast and a bit humid, but temperatures in the mid-seventies. Good walking weather. I prowled around a bit, checked out the landscaping that is going on around the National Aquarium and along Light Street. It's very much a work in progress, but for the first time we've been able to see what its final contours are going to be like. For the past year it has pretty much looked like a construction site, and it still does. By this time next year the construction will be cleaned up, the grounds replanted and the whole harbor area will be looking really good. I can hardly wait for spring.

Took some pictures, but only the flags were worth posting.

Browsed around Barnes & Noble and read one chapter of Charles Mann's 1491, skimming the rest of the book. I'll probably go back and buy it next week. It's a nice popular account summarizing much of the revisionist work done on American Indian populations in the past decade or so. As such it serves as an excellent introduction to the subject for the general reader and I highly recommend it [you can buy it by clicking on one of the Amazon ads at the top of the blog].

Be warned, though, as in most pop works the author tends to emphasize the most startling and dramatic interpretations of limited evidence, some of which are still very controversial, and sometimes the storytelling aspects of his account lead him to assert confidently things that are not generally accepted by more serious scholars [qualifications get in the way of the story line]. Still, it's a pretty good summary, well written, totally involving in places, and I plan to read it as soon as I finish Neal Stephenson's Confusion.

I also noted that Terry Pratchett has a new discworld book out. It's titled "Thud" and looks to be pretty good. I'll be taking a look at it next week.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Just as We All Suspected

Hat tip, Lucianne.

"Baby Dolls" and Budget Woes

Gerard Baker, writing in the Times, has some fun mocking the imprudent spending habits of people receiving relief funds and the Republican administration that is doling them out. He notes that a lot of FEMA debit cards are being used to buy booze and lap dances. He writes:

There were virtually no restrictions on the use of the cards and so the definition of “necessities” acquired some latitude. Louis Vuitton did a roaring trade in handbags in the Houston area and a good deal was dropped, as it were, at some of the city’s finest adult entertainment establishments.

Interviewed by a reporter for the local TV station, Abby over at Baby Dolls said she had seen many clients using their debit cards. She had nothing but praise for this exercise in government largesse. “A lot of customers have been coming in from Louisiana and they’ve been real happy about the $1.75 beers and they’re really nice.” It was only fair, she added that they should get a little publicly funded help. “You lost your whole house, then, why not?” she said. “You might want some beer in a strip club. There are a lot of guys out there that like to do that.”

He then compares this wasteful spending by the poor with that of the current administration.
One of the more puzzling myths about the US in the wake of the Katrina disaster is the notion that heartless, penny-pinching Republicans have bled the Government so dry that the very idea of public spending, even on disasters, has become impossible. In fact, the Fema sponsor-a-stripper exercise was entirely of a piece with an outburst of fiscal incontinence proudly presided over by government-hating Republicans in the last decade.
Read it here.

He's got a point. Conservative dissatisfaction with Bush has been mounting for some time and is reaching a boiling point. This administration has nothing to fear from the hapless left -- but a revolt in Republican ranks could undo almost everything Bush has accomplished.

Pennsylvania Politics -- Santorum is a Burkean

Interesting article in today's WSJ. Rick Santorum and Iain Duncan Smith [a Brit MP] "coauthored" a piece on "A Conservative Vision of Social Justice" that draws heavily on the ideas of Edmund Burke. It also announces
The first international conference of social-justice conservatives will convene next week in Washington. We will be sharing experiences of domestic poverty-fighting, but we're also coming together to forge a global movement of like-minded conservatives. We will be launching a network to promote conservative responses to issues such as HIV/AIDS, world hunger and the enslavement and trafficking of human beings.
Read it here.

I wonder if Rickey has ever read Burke? There is a clear affinity between Burke's conservatism and the ideas embodied in Santorum's It Takes a Family, but people who know tell me that he was an indifferent student at best.

I seriously doubt that this sort of thing will do Santorum much good in the upcoming Senate race. He's already down by double digits and sinking fast, and he's wasting his time organizing international conservative conferences. He'd better get his mind back in the game and soon.

On the other hand, maybe he's looking toward a post-Senate career as an international spokesman for conservative causes.

Who can figure?

Friday, September 23, 2005

South Africa -- Mugabe's Madness is Spreading

For many months now racist elements in the South African government have been pressuring President Thabo Mbeki to emulate Robert Mugabe's policies in neighboring Zimbabwe and to expropriate white-owned farmland. [previous posts here, here, here, and here] Now it begins.

BBC reports:
S African white farm to be seized
South Africa says it will for the first time force a white farmer to sell his land under a redistribution plan.

The decision was announced by the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights, set up to return to black people land lost under apartheid.

An official said talks to agree on a price for the farm had failed and the farmer has vowed to challenge the move.

South Africa's government says it wants to hand over about a third of white-owned farm land by 2014.

Read it here.

Previously the government had been basing land transfers on a policy of "willing seller/willing buyer" but radicals protested that was going to slow and demanded immediate expropriation. The hope is that land redistribution will bring prosperity to SA's black underclass, but in Zimbabwe it brought nothing but ruin to the nation's economy. Mugabe's poisonous blend of Marxism, Maoism and Racism promises to do the same for SA if widely adopted.

Let us sincerely hope that moderation will prevail in SA and that it will not plunge mindlessly down the mad course Mugabe has blazed.

CNN adds this information:

The deputy president [Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka -- pictured above] said last July that the government wants all land restitution claims settled within the next three years. The government, she said, seeks to deliver 30 percent of the country's agricultural land to people disadvantaged by apartheid by 2014. If necessary, she said it would revise the current willing buyer, willing seller principle.

South African officials have repeatedly said they do not plan to emulate Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's seizure of white-owned farms, which many say contributed to the collapse of that country's farm-based economy.

But Mugabe's policies have made him hugely popular among black South Africans, while land reform here appears stalled.

Read it here.

This is not strictly correct. Ms. Phumzile has been only the most prominent of many S. African officials who have been openly demanding that President Mbeki emulate Mugabe's redistribution policies.