Day By Day

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Day the Revolution Ended


On this day in 1782 the United States and Britain signed a provisional treaty that brought hostilities to an end in the American Revolution. The treaty was not ratified by Congress until 15 April 1783, and several months more would pass before a formal final treaty would be signed, but this provisional agreement can accurately be said to mark the effective end of the revolution. In fact the Treaty of Paris, signed 3 September 1783, specifically recognized this fact when it stipulated that the territorial division of North America between Britain and the United States should be considered final as of this date.

Hooters Comes to Germany


Germany may be experiencing political uncertainty, high unemployment, economic stagnation, a looming immigration crisis and all matter of other problems, but in one area things just keep looking up.

A few months ago the nannies at the EU proposed ban on revealing costumes for outdoor workers that would have eliminated the traditional dirndl worn by serving girls in Bavarian beerhalls as well as other attire that emphasized their feminine charms. This sparked a massive international protest that forced the meddling Eurocrats to back down just in time for Oktoberfest [here]. Now with the Miss Grundys of the EU in full retreat Der Spiegel announces:
The infamous US babes and burgers chain Hooters is coming to Germany.
The article goes on to wonder if such American decadence will be welcomed in Germany. Especially it asks whether German women will be able to function as Hooters girls.
Hooters girls are supposed to always be "camera ready" and having an optimistic attitude will ensure "more money and satisfaction". The company's official guidebook acknowledges that everyone has problems at home, "but we leave those at home." The girls in Neunkirchen [where the first Hooters will open] also have to learn the five-foot rule -- which stipulates that when they are within five feet of a guest, they have to make eye contact.
Apparently German waitresses are famous for their inability to respond to customers' desires. That wasn't my experience when I lived there, but things might have changed a lot in the past thirty years.

And then there's the problem with the customers.
The restaurant in Neunkirchen might be able to survive from the custom of US servicemen stationed at [nearby] Ramstein [AFB], but it's unclear whether Hooters can thrive elsewhere in Germany. Sandy [a waitress interviewed for the article] appeared chirpy enough, but this isn't a country known for its enthusiastic service industry. And German men -- who are bombarded by softcore porn images on television and elsewhere -- may find the Hooters girls rather tame by comparison.

The company might find German society less than welcoming as well. It appears the best way to become a Hooters girl in the United States is if you have extra-large breast implants, a lisp and utter ignorance about labor laws.
The article [read it here] goes on to imply that the women who work at Hooters are an oppressed class of proles whose charms would interest only prudish Americans. You get the idea -- the whole thing is one long put-down of the US. and capitalism in general. But forget the snippy tone of the author and look at the big picture, Germany is getting Hooters girls! And that is a reason to smile.

And, as always, there is a serious point to be made. The article in all its condescension reveals a hideously distorted view of American society and culture, one that unfortunately many Europeans gladly embrace. Whether this grotesque distortion is a result of American media, or a holdover from Cold War propaganda, or just garden variety left wing lunacy, it is a real problem that Americans have to face every day in their interactions with European elites.

By the way, the names of the girls in the photo are Desiree and Heather and they are "camera friendly."


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Way to Go Joe!


Once again Joe Lieberman proves himself to be the most admirable figure in the Democratic Party and in the Senate. Here's what he has to say in the WSJ:
Our Troops Must Stay
America can't abandon 27 million Iraqis to 10,000 terrorists.

BY JOE LIEBERMAN
Tuesday, November 29, 2005 12:01 a.m.

I have just returned from my fourth trip to Iraq in the past 17 months and can report real progress there. More work needs to be done, of course, but the Iraqi people are in reach of a watershed transformation from the primitive, killing tyranny of Saddam to modern, self-governing, self-securing nationhood--unless the great American military that has given them and us this unexpected opportunity is prematurely withdrawn.

Progress is visible and practical. In the Kurdish North, there is continuing security and growing prosperity. The primarily Shiite South remains largely free of terrorism, receives much more electric power and other public services than it did under Saddam, and is experiencing greater economic activity. The Sunni triangle, geographically defined by Baghdad to the east, Tikrit to the north and Ramadi to the west, is where most of the terrorist enemy attacks occur. And yet here, too, there is progress.

There are many more cars on the streets, satellite television dishes on the roofs, and literally millions more cell phones in Iraqi hands than before. All of that says the Iraqi economy is growing. And Sunni candidates are actively campaigning for seats in the National Assembly. People are working their way toward a functioning society and economy in the midst of a very brutal, inhumane, sustained terrorist war against the civilian population and the Iraqi and American military there to protect it.

It is a war between 27 million and 10,000; 27 million Iraqis who want to live lives of freedom, opportunity and prosperity and roughly 10,000 terrorists who are either Saddam revanchists, Iraqi Islamic extremists or al Qaeda foreign fighters who know their wretched causes will be set back if Iraq becomes free and modern. The terrorists are intent on stopping this by instigating a civil war to produce the chaos that will allow Iraq to replace Afghanistan as the base for their fanatical war-making. We are fighting on the side of the 27 million because the outcome of this war is critically important to the security and freedom of America. If the terrorists win, they will be emboldened to strike us directly again and to further undermine the growing stability and progress in the Middle East, which has long been a major American national and economic security priority.

Before going to Iraq last week, I visited Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Israel has been the only genuine democracy in the region, but it is now getting some welcome company from the Iraqis and Palestinians who are in the midst of robust national legislative election campaigns, the Lebanese who have risen up in proud self-determination after the Hariri assassination to eject their Syrian occupiers (the Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hezbollah militias should be next), and the Kuwaitis, Egyptians and Saudis who have taken steps to open up their governments more broadly to their people. In my meeting with the thoughtful prime minister of Iraq, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, he declared with justifiable pride that his country now has the most open, democratic political system in the Arab world. He is right.

In the face of terrorist threats and escalating violence, eight million Iraqis voted for their interim national government in January, almost 10 million participated in the referendum on their new constitution in October, and even more than that are expected to vote in the elections for a full-term government on Dec. 15. Every time the 27 million Iraqis have been given the chance since Saddam was overthrown, they have voted for self-government and hope over the violence and hatred the 10,000 terrorists offer them. Most encouraging has been the behavior of the Sunni community, which, when disappointed by the proposed constitution, registered to vote and went to the polls instead of taking up arms and going to the streets. Last week, I was thrilled to see a vigorous political campaign, and a large number of independent television stations and newspapers covering it.

None of these remarkable changes would have happened without the coalition forces led by the U.S. And, I am convinced, almost all of the progress in Iraq and throughout the Middle East will be lost if those forces are withdrawn faster than the Iraqi military is capable of securing the country.

The leaders of Iraq's duly elected government understand this, and they asked me for reassurance about America's commitment. The question is whether the American people and enough of their representatives in Congress from both parties understand this. I am disappointed by Democrats who are more focused on how President Bush took America into the war in Iraq almost three years ago, and by Republicans who are more worried about whether the war will bring them down in next November's elections, than they are concerned about how we continue the progress in Iraq in the months and years ahead.

Here is an ironic finding I brought back from Iraq. While U.S. public opinion polls show serious declines in support for the war and increasing pessimism about how it will end, polls conducted by Iraqis for Iraqi universities show increasing optimism. Two-thirds say they are better off than they were under Saddam, and a resounding 82% are confident their lives in Iraq will be better a year from now than they are today. What a colossal mistake it would be for America's bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will and, in the famous phrase, to seize defeat from the jaws of the coming victory.

The leaders of America's military and diplomatic forces in Iraq, Gen. George Casey and Ambassador Zal Khalilzad, have a clear and compelling vision of our mission there. It is to create the environment in which Iraqi democracy, security and prosperity can take hold and the Iraqis themselves can defend their political progress against those 10,000 terrorists who would take it from them.

Does America have a good plan for doing this, a strategy for victory in Iraq? Yes we do. And it is important to make it clear to the American people that the plan has not remained stubbornly still but has changed over the years. Mistakes, some of them big, were made after Saddam was removed, and no one who supports the war should hesitate to admit that; but we have learned from those mistakes and, in characteristic American fashion, from what has worked and not worked on the ground. The administration's recent use of the banner "clear, hold and build" accurately describes the strategy as I saw it being implemented last week.

We are now embedding a core of coalition forces in every Iraqi fighting unit, which makes each unit more effective and acts as a multiplier of our forces. Progress in "clearing" and "holding" is being made. The Sixth Infantry Division of the Iraqi Security Forces now controls and polices more than one-third of Baghdad on its own. Coalition and Iraqi forces have together cleared the previously terrorist-controlled cities of Fallujah, Mosul and Tal Afar, and most of the border with Syria. Those areas are now being "held" secure by the Iraqi military themselves. Iraqi and coalition forces are jointly carrying out a mission to clear Ramadi, now the most dangerous city in Al-Anbar province at the west end of the Sunni Triangle.

Nationwide, American military leaders estimate that about one-third of the approximately 100,000 members of the Iraqi military are able to "lead the fight" themselves with logistical support from the U.S., and that that number should double by next year. If that happens, American military forces could begin a drawdown in numbers proportional to the increasing self-sufficiency of the Iraqi forces in 2006. If all goes well, I believe we can have a much smaller American military presence there by the end of 2006 or in 2007, but it is also likely that our presence will need to be significant in Iraq or nearby for years to come.

The economic reconstruction of Iraq has gone slower than it should have, and too much money has been wasted or stolen. Ambassador Khalilzad is now implementing reform that has worked in Afghanistan--Provincial Reconstruction Teams, composed of American economic and political experts, working in partnership in each of Iraq's 18 provinces with its elected leadership, civil service and the private sector. That is the "build" part of the "clear, hold and build" strategy, and so is the work American and international teams are doing to professionalize national and provincial governmental agencies in Iraq.

These are new ideas that are working and changing the reality on the ground, which is undoubtedly why the Iraqi people are optimistic about their future--and why the American people should be, too.

I cannot say enough about the U.S. Army and Marines who are carrying most of the fight for us in Iraq. They are courageous, smart, effective, innovative, very honorable and very proud. After a Thanksgiving meal with a great group of Marines at Camp Fallujah in western Iraq, I asked their commander whether the morale of his troops had been hurt by the growing public dissent in America over the war in Iraq. His answer was insightful, instructive and inspirational: "I would guess that if the opposition and division at home go on a lot longer and get a lot deeper it might have some effect, but, Senator, my Marines are motivated by their devotion to each other and the cause, not by political debates."

Thank you, General. That is a powerful, needed message for the rest of America and its political leadership at this critical moment in our nation's history. Semper Fi.

Semper Fi indeed.

Joe Lieberman has always been a classy guy. Now he is beginning to verge on heroic. The failure of the Democrats to nominate him for President in 2004 does not speak well for them as a party.


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Picture of the Week -- "Deep in Sahara"


This week I'm going to go with a photograph. It's from a portfolio by Simon Lyutakov titled "Deep in Sahara". Check out his work at photo.net [here].

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Our Hero


She Who Must Not Be Named" and I just learned that our nephew, Tom, is leaving for Iraq with the Screaming Eagles in a few hours. This is his second tour of duty there, and his third in the Middle East. Just a few days ago he and his wife, Wendy, had their third child, Reaghan. This post is a small attempt to tell the world just how very happy and proud they have made us all.

I intended to post a picture of the young warrior and his family, but they are all on a CD many miles from here. As soon as I get them I'll put a few online.

Thanks Tom -- God be with you....

UPDATE: Tom's father sent me this pic. It's an old one from his last tour in Iraq. He's been promoted since then.

Barking Moonbat Alert!


It doesn't get any stranger than this....
(PRWEB) - OTTAWA, CANADA (PRWEB) November 24, 2005 -- A former Canadian Minister of Defence and Deputy Prime Minister under Pierre Trudeau has joined forces with three Non-governmental organizations to ask the Parliament of Canada to hold public hearings on Exopolitics -- relations with “ETs.”
...

On September 25, 2005, in a startling speech at the University of Toronto that caught the attention of mainstream newspapers and magazines, Paul Hellyer, Canada’s Defence Minister from 1963-67 under Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Prime Minister Lester Pearson, publicly stated: "UFOs, are as real as the airplanes that fly over your head."

Mr. Hellyer went on to say, "I'm so concerned about what the consequences might be of starting an intergalactic war, that I just think I had to say something."

Hellyer revealed, "The secrecy involved in all matters pertaining to the Roswell incident was unparalled. The classification was, from the outset, above top secret, so the vast majority of U.S. officials and politicians, let alone a mere allied minister of defence, were never in-the-loop."

Hellyer warned, "The United States military are preparing weapons which could be used against the aliens, and they could get us into an intergalactic war without us ever having any warning. He stated, "The Bush administration has finally agreed to let the military build a forward base on the moon, which will put them in a better position to keep track of the goings and comings of the visitors from space, and to shoot at them, if they so decide."

Hellyer’s speech ended with a standing ovation. He said, "The time has come to lift the veil of secrecy, and let the truth emerge, so there can be a real and informed debate, about one of the most important problems facing our planet today."

Three Non-governmental organizations took Hellyer’s words to heart, and approached Canada’s Parliament in Ottawa, Canada’s capital, to hold public hearings on a possible ET presence, and what Canada should do.

[emphasis mine] Read it here.

Ah..., Canada, oh Canada.

It's easy to laugh at things like this and then you think back to some of Al Gore's speeches and writings.

RELATED:

On the Beltway Boys tonight, Mort Kondrake observed that John Kerry's recent speeches were getting pretty weird and he was saying some bizarre things. Mort's comment was that Kerry was beginning to turn into Al Gore. The implication, of course, was that Screamin Al had become the gold standard in major political moonbattery. Then at the end of the show they discussed the fact that Gore has recently said that he felt vindicated by events since 2000 and was seriously considering another run at the presidency in 2008.

Now THAT's bizarre.

Unsane at Any Speed


Unsane Jennifer from Down Under has some interesting things to say, especially about sports as a metaphor for life [in her case boxing]. Check out her blog here. No "girly girl" she, although she lacks a proper appreciation of SUV's. Maybe Toby the "bilious young fogey" can straighten her out on that subject.

I Survived Black Friday

My apologies to everyone for not responding to correspondence -- either through e-mail or comments -- more diligently, and for the paucity of posts. What with home improvement follies, travel back to the harbor and to DC, Thanksgiving with friends and family, the beginning of the Christmas shopping season [including my first ever experience of Black Friday hysteria -- to quote Count Floyd, it's scary kids, really scary], a persistent cold, and messing around with a new computer [you would not believe the price we got!], installing it on my home network, and other stuff not worth mentioning, the past week has been a perfect storm of disruption. The contractors should be finished by Thursday and life [and blogging] should return to normal not long after that.

Be patient, and stay tuned...

Friday, November 25, 2005

Angie and Otto?



Bill Rice over at Dawn's Early Light writes about Angela Merkel, newly installed as Germany's first female Chancellor. He wonders if she has the potential to be another Bismarck. Read his intriguing analysis here.

Perhaps -- she's a tough lady and Europe's current situation creates numerous opportunities for an ambitious national leader to exert influence throughout the continent. Rice's analysis focuses on strategic considerations and in that regard there are definitely interesting possibilities. But, note that Bismark was also the father of the modern welfare state, instituting a broad social safety net in Germany that became the model for all others, and he also launched a kulturkampf to impose cultural uniformity throughout the German realms. Merkel, a social conservative, will seek, with little success I fear, to roll back some of the welfare policies that trace their origins to Bismarck. On the culture front, Germans are angry and feel threatened by immigrants and cultural minorities. Will they want to emulate Bismarck's example?

If Merkel turns out to be as formidable figure as Rice thinks she will be, she might emerge as the anti-Bismarck.

And note that Angie has lots of problems Bismarck never faced. No government figure in Bismark's time ever pondered (in public at least) the question, "how do you hug a chancellor?"

It's still honeymoon time, and things will certainly change, but for now the German press has given Angie superlative reviews on her first official swing aroung the continent. Read about it here.

Mark Steyn Strikes Again


In today's column in the Telegraph Mark Steyn concisely explains just what is wrong with liberal transnationalism -- it is just another form of isolationism.

He writes:
Taking your ball and going home is a seductive argument in a paradoxical superpower whose inclinations on the Right have a strong isolationist streak and on the Left a strong transnational streak - which is isolationism with a sappy face and biennial black-tie banquets in EU capitals. Transnationalism means poseur solutions - the Kyotification of foreign policy.
This, I suspect, is the reason so many Americans were so contented with Bill Clinton's do- nothing foreign policy and are so alarmed by Bush's determination to use his and the nation's power to make the world a better, safer place. Clinton, like Euro-thusiasts, always preferred the pose to the possibility, the talk to the walk. And for affluent Americans, it always seems safer to endlessly discuss problems rather than to actually confront them. Liberal transnationalism is, indeed, a form of isolationism that hides behind the mask of international dialogue and shifts responsibility for addressing international problems to ineffective NGOs. The illusion of involvement is preserved, but the practical effect is evasion of responsibility. But then, evasion of responsibility is what Boomers have always been all about.

Miss Penitentary



Sao Paulo Brazil just awarded the title of Miss Penitentary, 2005 to Angelica Mazura, currently serving a five-year sentence on drug smuggling charges. Peru and Columbia also hold similar contests for inmates. The idea, it seems, is to boost the contestants' self-esteem. Winners often receive reduced sentences.

Read about it here.

Pictured above are some of this year's contestants as well as last year's winner, Fernanda Maria de Jesus, another drug runner.

At last, a solution to the international drug problem -- self-esteem therapy! Why didn't we think of this first?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Christopher Hitchens Says "Grow Up"

Christopher Hitchens has a terrific piece on the infantile and disingenuous tenor of the dialogue that has taken place in Washington on the subject of Iraq. Both Democrats and Republicans seem to be unable to rise above the level of playground taunts. This inability of either side to come to terms directly with the issues involved in Iraq is not only disgusting, but as he points out, it is also dangerous.

Read it here.

The Limits of Reform in the Middle East

Michael Young, Opinion Editor for Beirut's Daily Star and one of the most perceptive commentators on the Middle East has a nice peace in Reason. He notes that the reform imperative sparked by revolutions in Eastern Europe and by the US invasion of Iraq have pretty much reached its limits, but argues forcefully that a return to the cynical “realism” of the past would be a mistake.

Young argues for a middle course between the “idealism” of the early days of Bush’s Iraq adventure, and the cold, interest based, realism of the first Bush administration. He writes:

[T]he U.S. [should] declare the spread of democracy [to be] a strategic interest (not an open-ended desire), one that must be advanced where and when possible, even if it is temporarily delayed by intervening objectives. Arab regimes should be pushed to take specific measures within specific timeframes to open up their societies, and the U.S. can tie this to other forms of bilateral cooperation. Finally, no administration should ever hail as progress what is patently an effort by dictatorships to sell it a defective bill of democratic goods.

Young is right that a retreat into Scowcroftian "realism" would be ultimately self-defeating. It is US support for dictatorial regimes throughout the Cold War and after that nurtured the Islamic radicalism that today threatens us. Reform must come to the region and the US must remain fully engaged to ensure that reform moves in the direction of democratic liberalism, not toward Islamic radicalism. And he is also right to argue that advancement of the democratic agenda should be closely tied to realist goals of promoting and protecting US interests in the region, if only for the reason that a substantial proportion of the American public will not support purely idealistic intiatives over the long run.

Read the whole thing here.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

More Green Nonsense -- Humanity RIP

You just knew it had to come to this in the end.

UPI reports:

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- Make no mistake about it, the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement isn't anti-child, it's more like anti-human.

The VHE is dedicated to phasing out the human race in the interest of the health of the Earth, founder Les Knight told Wednesday's San Francisco Chronicle.

Read it here.

And of course you knew that end would come in San Francisco.

The environmentalist movement jumped the shark with the first Earth Day. Since then it has more and more become a fanatical religious crusade rather than a responsible reform movement. This is the logical extension of core environmentalist beliefs and it represents the reductio ad absurdum of what was once a legitimate movement.

This Day in History -- Happy Orange Anniversary

I know the networks are doing Kennedy commemorations -- they always do, but I would prefer to note something else of major import that happened on this day.

AP reports:

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- Crowds of Ukrainians waving orange flags descended on Kiev's main square Tuesday for anniversary celebrations marking the start of the Orange Revolution -- the weeks of mass protests over election fraud that ushered opposition leaders into power.

Read the whole thing here.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire -- Some Thoughts


"She Who Must Not Be Named" and I went to see the new Harry Potter movie today. This is the fourth in the series, all starring the same ensemble cast. The cast includes some of the finest acting talent in Britain and Ireland and, to be sure, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, et. al. turn in their standard high-quality but all too brief performances. There are a couple of really outstanding parts. Ralph Fiennes is marvelous as the big bad guy, and Brendan Gleeson has a lot of fun as the new "defense against the dark arts" professor. Their performances alone are worth the price of admission.

Most of the baggage is carried by the trio of young actors we have watched grow up on the screen. Dan Radcliffe is adequate in the lead part that unfortunately does not much test his talents. Basically, he is called upon to do little more than alternatively look troubled and heroically determined. He's got those down pat, now let's see something more. Rupert Grint in the best buddy role is rapidly maturing as an actor. In the past he was only goofy or distressed. Now he has a darker side that he plays well. He's going to be interesting to watch as he matures into more complex roles. The real revelation is Emma Watson as Hermione. Her role contains a fair amount of complexity. She has to deal with a suitor, an awakening awareness that she is drawn to Rupert Grint's character, disappointment, anger, frustration, motherly concern, and the transition from precocious child to beautiful young adult, and she's believable in all these aspects. There are three or four scenes where she adds little bits of business to her part that are absolutely spot on. I don't know if they came from her or from the director, Mike Newell, but hers is a wonderfully sophisticated piece of work for a young star. I should also mention Matthew Lewis in what was formerly just a comic bit part, but here acquires some real depth. He's someone to keep an eye on.

What else to say? The narrative at nearly two and a half hours feels rushed. Supposedly the studio at one point considered dividing the book into two movies, but ultimately decided on one continuous story. The result is that there is just too much being shoehorned into the film. But fans won't mind, and would resent leaving anything out. And this is more than anything a movie for fans.

The FX? Passable. The technology just keeps getting better and better. The imagined world is starting to open up to include fascinating glimpses of international sports organizations and rival wizards schools. Cinematography good with lots of pretty establishing shots. Hogwarts keeps growing. This time it's HUGE! All in all, "Goblet of Fire" is an enjoyable film, especially if you have read the books or followed the series to date and don't have to be filled in on details, such as "who is Hagrid?"

It's worth your while..., check it out.

Some notes on the political dimensions of Harry Potter's universe:

There are some points in the film that resonate interestingly with current political debates centering on the Iraq war.

1) It is clear that the Wizards Council is quite willing to engage in torture of "deatheaters" to gain vital information.

2) The prison conditions at Azkaban seem to be even worse than Abu Ghraib.

3) When Harry's nerve falters, as it seems to be doing for many Congresscritters, Dumbledore admonishes him to "do what's right, not what's easy."

4) It is made quite clear that once Harry embarks on a venture, the Tri-Wizard Tournament, that is extremely dangerous, there is no turning back. He has to "stay the course."

5) When a major character dies, Dumbledore gives a speech in which he admonishes the mourners to continue the struggle against evil in order to make sure that he will not have "died in vain."

All of which leads me to wonder -- Is Dumbedore a "neo-con?"

Actually [here we go again...] there'a a serious point here. The Harry Potter movies present a vision of heroic service that is quite consonant with major themes being articulated from the White House, but that seem incomprehensible or repulsive to many of the administration's critics.

Which leads me to wonder, is the heroic ethic put forth in Rowling's books and in these immensely popular movies -- an ethic that millions of parents feel is appropriate for their children to absorb -- in any way consonant with the realities of today's American political culture? Or is Harry [and perhaps Dubya] a figure out of his time, a heroic model that has no place in today's world and can only exist in a fantasy environment?

Basically, I am asking whether or not America today can tolerate or support heroic effort outside of Hogwarts or Middle Earth.

Stay tuned....

PreIndustrial Climate Change


Back on the mountain -- cold and dreary (I'm referring to me, not the weather). "She Who Must Not Be Named” and I have come down with colds and are feeling dreary. We left the Harbor a day earlier than we had planned to and drove north, stopping from time to time to pick up necessities. Somehow feeling lousy takes all the fun out of grocery shopping. Tantalizing pastries and such hold no attraction at all for someone whose stomach is queasy. Consequently, we finished up at Whole Foods in only about fifteen minutes, and Wegmans took only a little longer. Then we were on our way into the wilds of Central Pennsylvania.

I hadn’t eaten anything all day so when we arrived on the mountain I snacked a bit and watched a nice little program on the History Channel on the subject of the “Little Ice Age” that afflicted the Northern Hemisphere from the Fourteenth through the Nineteenth Centuries. It followed three centuries of warmer times called the “Medieval Climatic Optimum.” This, of course, is old hat to professional historians and even to informed amateurs, but the general public, as well as many politicians encouraged by environmentalist activists, subscribes to the view that prior to the rise of industry earth’s climate was generally benign and stable. It’s nice to see reality being given at least some exposure, even if it is only on a cable channel.

As the show notes there is little scientific consensus regarding the reasons for the five century long cold snap. Three possibilities were mentioned:

1) a change in solar output [I remember a conversation I once had with Sallie Baliunas, the Harvard astronomer who specializes in Solar studies, where she expounded on the idea. At the time I found the idea that the Sun was a variable star very disquieting and said so. She just smiled. I suspect that most people, like me, shy away from the idea because it places our fates absolutely beyond our control.]

2) An unexplained upsurge in volcanism that blocked solar radiation from penetrating the atmosphere [this has been demonstrated in some specific cases in which unnaturally cold weather has followed upon documented eruptions, but it no more explicable or subject to human control than variations in Solar output and is therefore disheartening to contemplate]

3) The only comfortable perspective from which to view climatic fluctuations is the Anthropogenic hypothesis so much beloved by environmentalist activists. This argues that recent changes in the Earth’s climate are the result of human activity. This is comforting because it suggests that climate can at least to some extent be controlled. This perspective was introduced in the show only to explain the end of the cold snap. Presumably the rise of industry, by releasing greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, brought the Little Ice Age to an end and restored the warmer temperatures of the Medieval Optimum. [As I remember Larry Niven and Steven Barnes did a novel on this subject some years ago.] Unmentioned was the suggestion, being explored by some scholars, of pre-industrial anthropogenic influences on climate. We now understand, for instance, that pre-Columbian Native American cultures engaged in extensive and quite destructive modification of local ecologies such as regular burning of woodlands, draining of wetlands, etc.

I missed the last half hour of the show, in part because I was getting really, really tired [colds have that effect on me] and because it seemed to be veering into a PC warning about the catastrophic effects of global warning, and as a consequence I was losing interest. One obvious point that was not discussed as such by the program, although I may have missed it at the end, was the distinct possibility that the global warming trend of the past century which has been well documented, might be both natural and beneficial.

One important point that did emerge from the show -- one that I want to emphasize:

Historians have a lot to contribute to current policy debates, even those carried on within the “scientific community,” if only someone is willing to listen to them. Both the Medieval Optimum and the Little Ice Age have long been known and their human and historical consequences understood by people in the field, although environmental “scientists” are just gradually becoming aware of them. More programs like this one that integrate historical and scientific perspectives would be useful.

I'm getting tired again -- back to bed.

Before I go, a brief word from Stephen Crane:

A man said to the universe:
"Sir I exist!"
"However," replied the universe,
"The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation."
Somehow it seemed appropriate.


Saturday, November 19, 2005

Happy Toilet Day!!!



I didn't even know it was "World Toilet Day" but apparently it is.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports:
World Toilet Day was launched by lavatory makers about a decade ago, but now focuses more on the developing world. The World Toilet Organisation held its annual conference in Belfast this year.
Actually, there is a serious point behind the commemoration.

The report says about 2 million people a year - mainly children - die from diarrhoea, chiefly as a consequence of poor sanitation.

...
Overall, 2.6 billion people - or about 40 per cent of the world's population - are without hygienic toilets.
Read it here.

When you run the numbers an estimated death rate of 2 million people out of 2.6 billion isn't that high. Inadequate toilet facilities, by these industry estimates, rank far below other major causes of death in the underdeveloped world. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't be concerned, but that other problems might have higher priorities.

For potential solutions to the toilet shortage check out here, and here.

Iraq the Model Comments on Murtha

Mohammed writes:
I can’t imagine why Mr. Murtha said something like “is evident that continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf region”.

It is really strange when a US representative says something like this few weeks after the elected Iraqi government demanded from the UN to extend the mission of coalition forces for another year; apparently my government (and I) do not think that US military presence is harmful for us and the Arab League also thinks that an immediate withdrawal would be disastrous for Iraq and the region.
And correct me if I’m wrong but I think I heard a few days ago that the US senate rejected a law that demanded setting a timetable for troops withdrawal (58 vs. 40, right?) let alone an immediate one.

However, I agree with Mr. Murtha that some people in Iraq would benefit from an immediate withdrawal but that would be al-Qaeda and there are also countries in the region that would benefit from that too but these would be Syria and Iran!
Unfortunately it seems to be in the character of many Congresscritters to speak mindlessly and irresponsibly in the mad pursuit of temporary political advantage. I fear that Rep. Murtha, and the Democrat leadership that instigated his comments, through his poorly-considered statements, has done himself, his constituents, his party, his nation, and indeed the world, a disservice.

Picture Of the Week


This week's picture is by Arshile Gorky, an Armenian-American abstract impressionist. I first became aware of his art by watching a Atom Egoyan's wonderful film about memory and the victims of the Twentieth Century's first genocide, Ararat.

Gorky is a fascinating artist on a number of levels. He didn't live long, dying at the age of 44. And he was an autodidact, learning to paint by copying the work of others rather than through formal education. His rapid evolution as an artist reflects the major trends of both the American and the European art worlds through the first half of the Twentieth Century. And his work reflects both the physical pain of his numerous afflictions, and the psychic pain of the generation of Armenians who grew up seeking to preserve and cope with the memory of the atrocities that had been inflicted on their parents. This picture of the artist and his mother seem, in my mind, to sum up so much of what this immensely talented artist stood for.

To learn more about Gorky and his art visit this page at the ArtCyclopedia and follow the links.

This Day in History -- Deep Resonances


On this day in 1863 an embattled Republican President, under enormous pressure from Democrats to bring the boys home and end an unpopular war, delivered a short speech dedicating a military cemetary on a battlefield of that war. The media wasn't impressed. One newspaper reported that a speech "more dull and commonplace it would not be easy to produce."

Today those brief remarks are generally considered to be the greatest political oration ever delivered in America. It went like this:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

For an excellent discussion of this speech and its meaning for American political culture see Gary Wills' Pulitzer Prize Winning book Lincoln at Gettysburg: Words that Remade American History [you can order through Amazon by clicking on one of the ads at the top of the page].

Now if Dubya could only speak English....

AND THERE'S THIS:

On this day in 1919 the U.S. Senate refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles. Actually, it was rejected twice, the second time in the spring of 1920. As a result the United States never entered the League of Nations and instead signed a separate peace with Germany in 1921. Liberal historians of the mid-twentieth century [as if there was any other kind], intoxicated by a vision of collective security that would guarantee perpetual peace, routinely portrayed this rejection as a great tragedy and variously blamed it on Wilson's intransigence or Republican perfidity. Some even went so far as to claim that failure to ratify the treaty doomed the League of Nations to impotence and thus contributed to the coming of World War II. Today many historians, having watched decades of UN ineptitude and folly and the repeated failure of collective security arrangements, are a bit more forgiving. Many of the arguments for and against the Treaty and the League resonate today with those made in the runup to the Iraq Invasion.

The Organization of American Historians Teaching Guide and source materials for the ratification debate are online. Check it out here.

The photograph is the only known one of Lincoln at Gettysburg. In case you can't pick him out of the crowd he's the hatless guy with the receding hairline sitting just to the left of Gov. Andrew Curtin. Hope that helps.


Friday, November 18, 2005

John Murtha In The Spotlight


I am now watching John Murtha speak in House debate on C-SPAN.

I have a special interest because Murtha used to be my congresscritter when I lived in Western Pennsylvania. His reputation then was as a porker and a reliable foot-soldier in the Democratic Party. Not a heavyweight on much of anything. That was plenty enough to get him re-elected time and again in a safe Democrat district and to advance him through Party ranks.

I should also point out that I am a veteran and I honor Rep. Murtha's long service, both in the military and in Congress. He does not deserve some of the opprobrium being directed toward him from the right. But I also say that he has always been something of a mediocrity and does not deserve the adulation he has received from some in the press and blogosphere.

Murtha is not, as some would have it, a "truth teller." He is simply a man chosen by his party, because of his military status and his longtime criticism of the Iraq war, to advance what they see as an advantageous argument. Nor is he a man of superior intellect and integrity. He simply represents a specific set of arguments and proposals. That he may sincerely subscribe to these arguments matters not. The debate should take place without any reference to the character, the service, the sincerity, or the integrity of the person making the proposal.

But of course, that is too much to ask for these days.

Right now as he speaks Murtha is stooping to a disgusting level, reading exquisitely-crafted supportive letters purportedly written by constitutents who have lost sons in Iraq. Now Rep. Hayworth is replying in kind, reading e-mails purportedly from troops in Iraq denouncing Murtha's position. Now Murtha is talking about how much he feels for disabled troops. In the past he has rejected criticism that comes from people who have never worn the uniform. One Republican speaker earlier charged that Murtha dishonored the Marines. All of thes ploys are beneath contempt, but sadly they have become the common coin of our national dialogue.

As disgusting as it is, however, the current House debate is a marked improvement over what has gone before. It brings the Democrat agenda out into the open and makes it the point of discussion. No more of this absurd "Bush Lied, People Died" crap. Now we are debating directly the war and its conduct.

To advocate an end to the war is not a betrayal of our troops, as Republicans charge. And, I might add, neither troops in the field nor veterans have any special status in this discussion. Far too much discussion on both sides centers on the troops. I am not saying we should not consider the commitment of our men and women in uniform or ignore the terrible dangers they face. But I am saying that the wisdom of the war and its conduct are matters that must be discussed in terms of national interests, goals, mission and the like and must be the concern of all citizens whether or not they wear or have worn the uniform.

The merits of Murtha's proposal are grounds for legitimate discussion. The Congressman has advanced specific points in support of his proposal. 1) US troops are exacerbating rather than solving the problem, 2) Iraq authorities have no incentive to work effectively to achieve stability so long as the US is propping them up. 3) The administration has "no plan" for ending the conflict. 4) The cost in American gold and blood is too high. 5) The US, by deposing Saddam, has already done all that it can reasonably be expected to do. Each of these can be debated rationally and seriously.

DAMN!

Now the floor debate is over and voting is taking place. The Democrats have ducked the issue. They are voting overwhelmingly not to demand immediate withdrawal. Smart, I don't think they can win that argument right now. But, I also don't think they can put the toothpaste back into the tube.

The proposal has been made -- bring the troops home. The Moonbat base of the Democrat Party is energized and is not going to shut up. The administration is beginning to strike back at its critics. Both sides are invoking memories of Vietnam. I don't think that we can go back now to the comfortable argument over "what did Scooter know and when did Woodward know it?" From this point on "Bring the Boys [and Girls] Home" and "Stay the Course" will dominate the national discussion.

I think the Democrats made a tactical mistake here. The debate will now focus attention again on Iraq and the entire Middle East and that, for the administration, is an eminently winnable argument.

Let the serious debate begin -- please!

George Orwell Considers John Murtha


Quote of the day:

George Orwell [Eric Blair]
"The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it, and if one finds the prospect of a long war intolerable, it is natural to disbelieve in the possibility of victory"-- Second Thoughts on James Burnham, 1946 [hat tip Rick Brookheiser]
James Burnham was the author of The Managerial Revolution. In 1941, he prophesized an inevitable Nazi triumph. At the time the Germans were in the suburbs of Moscow. Then the tide turned. By 1944 the Germans were in full retreat. At that point Burnham did an abrupt about face and began to predict an inevitable Russian victory over the West. It is this profound cynicism and pessimism, not unlike the recent public pronouncements of prominent Democrats, that inspired Orwell's comments.

Orwell also makes this interesting observation. Regarding Burnham's prediction near the end of World War II of an inevitable Russian world victory, Orwell remarks:
Burnham is predicting A CONTINUATION OF THE THING THAT IS HAPPENING. Now the tendency to do this is not simply a bad habit, like inaccuracy or exaggeration, which one can correct by taking thought. It is a major mental disease, and its roots lie partly in cowardice and partly in the worship of power, which is not fully separable from cowardice.
This seems to me to be an adequate description of what has happened in Congress. Early in the war, when American victory seemed inevitable, nearly everyone wanted to jump on the bandwagon and to share in the glory. Only the principled anti-war people stood apart from the herd. Then, when things began to get tough, first Democrats and then Republicans executed a volte face, not unlike that of Burnham during WWII, and by demanding an exit strategy, are doing their best to make their pessimistic judgment a reality.

Why the change? Democrats feared being blamed for a failed war and wanted out of their early commitment -- hence the lie that "Bush lied." This was a cowardly attempt to shift all blame for their actions onto the President and to absolve themselves of all responsibility for the war. Then, in the wake of off-year elections in which Democrats successfully beat back challenges in two states, Republicans panicked. Hence the "sense of the Senate" resolution demanding a quick [prior to the next election cycle] resolution of the Iraq engagement. In all of this pessimism and cynical cowardice [the fear of being blamed for an unpopular war] prevail. Orwell was right. We are now seeing a textbook example of triumphant pessimism, cowardice, and the cynical pursuit of power.

At least Dubya understands that power is to be exercised for the good of mankind, not just to name federal buildings and bridges after yourself.

Actually, it is probably worth your while to read the entire short essay. Here it is. Note particularly his observations on why intellectuals are usually more wrong than the general public and why they seem to be addicted to apocalyptic visions.

RELATED:

Murtha's speech is being featured on alJazeera [here].

Life in Penn's Woods


"She Who Must Not Be Named" isn't going to put seed in the bird feeders this year. She says it's because of the squirrels, but I suspect it's because she saw this photo.

Actually something like this not beyond the range of possibility. One day a few years ago "She" stepped out the front door of our mountain home to tend to her flowers and saw a black bear standing about twenty feet away. It looked at her..., they locked eyes..., and it ran. They say that animals can sense things about people..., hmmm.

Later we found the shattered remains of our neighbor's bee hives. Apparently that's what attracted it, but after its encounter with "She" it hasn't been back.

Smart bear.

"For All You Kool-Aid Drinkers Out There..."


This is to clarify what to many of you youngsters might be an obscure reference. Right-wing commentators [Sean Hannity comes to mind] often refer to liberals and lefties as "kool-aid drinkers" implying that they are mindless followers of irrational and corrupt politicians who are leading them and the country down the path to ruin. Here's why.

On this day in 1978, 911 followers of the Reverend Jim Jones committed suicide at their compound in Jonestown, Guyana. Nearly all of them died from ingesting Kool-Aid laced with cyanide. Apparently they did so voluntarily. Here's a link to the Court TV account of the massacre. Here's a retrospective from the Richmond Review.

The political association comes from the fact that at one point Rev. Jones was photographed with and received an endorsement from a clueless Rosalyn Carter, wife of the equally clueless Jimmah.

Note: Some accounts say the liquid was "Flavor Aid" but it is "KoolAid" that most people remember.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Sid the Squid on Iraq

Sid Blumenthal, erstwhile and perhaps future Clintonista hit man, now writes for Salon and the Guardian and is still spouting his left-wing venom. He has a piece in Der Spiegel today in which he argues:

1) Bush's critics are "truth-tellers."

2) Bush's stubborn refusal to admit defeat in Iraq is destroying the Republican Party and will lead to Democrat triumphs in the future.

3) Public opinon has turned decisively against the war and will not change in the future.

4) Bush and Republican leaders are lying to the public and obstructing investigations that would reveal those lies.

5) Bush may not be Hitler, but he is a Gen. Erich Ludendorff, who blamed German defeat in WWI on a "stab in the back" by opposition politicians.

6) Newt Gingrich is a spokesman for the administration when he declares that the Bush's real enemy is "the Democrats." [it's a joke, guy!]

7) With their lies, Bush and the Republicans are trying to rewrite history.

Read it here.

All this sounds to me a lot like psychological projection.

It is the Democrats, not the Republicans, who have embraced the Fuhrerprincip of devotion to a single figure who through force of will can solve all problems. They, not Republicans, are given to conspiracy theories. They, far more than the administration, are engaged in the rewriting of recent history.

I once attended a lecture by Gordon Wood in which he discussed the conspiratorial mindset of many American revolutionaries. He made the point that in a world where authority flows from the top down -- were a few key individuals make decisions that affect everything and everyone -- conspiracy theories are a reasonable representation of the way things work and therefore appropriate. Think, for instance, of pre-Revolutionary France, or (Wood's point) the administration of the British colonial system.

Wood's argument provides some insight into how the Democrats see the modern world.

The Democrats' longing for a great man [or woman] to lead them back to power and their propensity to see conspiracy everywhere reveals a deeper, darker aspect of their weltanschaaung. They really do think that authority flows downward from the top down through bureaucratic channels and that a few strong individuals "the best and the brightest", properly placed, can through the force of their will shape history to their desires.

They think history can be managed. So can the public. Public opinion to them is infinitely malleable and can be managed and manipulate if only their leaders can find the right words and symbols. History is something to be shaped through effective manipulation of symbols.

This is scary stuff, but it is what the Democrat Party has come to stand for.

This worldview is a profound repudiation of democratic principles. At the best it is "aristocratic" nonsense; at the worst it is "fascist" and dangerous. Whatever its form, though, it is entirely inappropriate to a democratic polity.

It is no surprise that the Democrats should have so little faith in the spread of democracy in the Middle East. They have no faith in it here in America.

And, lest I be misunderstood, I'm not saying the Democrats are Nazis. They're more like the Bourbons.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Murder in Lititz -- Putting the Commentary in Context


The Borden murder case has come as quite a shock to people around here. "She Who Must Not Be Named" and I travel regularly through the Lancaster area and Lititz has always been one of our favorite stops. It's a beautiful town filled with quaint little shops and stores and lots of historical sites. "She" and her friends like to go there from time to time to spend a couple of hours flitting from shop to shop. While they do their thing, I retire to a local coffee shop to munch pastries, drink coffee, and read architecture and home design books which the place has in abundance. The people I have met there have all been interesting and friendly [about what you would expect for a town that depends heavily on tourist trade] and my experiences in Lititz have always been pleasant.

One of the things that has always interested me about Lititz has been its history. The MSM keeps harping on the fact that the teenagers involved in the murder case were both home-schooled, as if that were remarkable, but home-schooling (usually organized through cooperative groups of several families) is quite common throughout Dutch country as are private religious schools. Many of the residents belong to German pietist sects that have long disdained the public school system. I'm not familiar with the specifics of the Borden and Ludwig families, but in this area home and religious schooling are quite common.

Even within the Dutch region Lititz stands out for its religious history. The town was founded in the middle of the eighteenth century by Count Zinzendorf as a Moravian mission community. It's name, reflecting the historical background of the Moravian Brethren, commemorates a Bohemian village that served as a Hussite refuge three hundred years earlier. For a century after its founding Lititz was a closed religious commune organized according to Brethren principles. The Brethren were pacifists and refused to serve in either the Revolution or the later Indian wars, although they did maintain a hospital to treat military personnel. They had a communal economy in which all land was church owned and was leased to individual families. Theirs was a tightly regulated society with young and old, men and women, married and single people ranked in separate "choirs" [although they were not as strict as other Moravian communities and did not require that choirs live separately from one another]. They also maintained a separate, religiously-based education system.

Even when the commune was dissolved and the town opened to new residents, the tradition of educational separatism persisted. Many of the newcomers were themselves German pietists who felt that education was a family and church, not a State responsibility. To provide proper instruction the Brethren long maintained boarding schools at Lititz that attracted students from as far away as Baltimore and Philadelphia. Linden Hall Seminary, founded in 1748, is today the oldest continually operated girls' school in the country.

So, it is not too surprising to find that young kids of German descent living in Lititz were home-schooled. Non-public schooling is a long tradition around here. People I know who have home-schooled tell me that the internet has been a terrific aid to instruction. As the Borden murders show, though, it also poses significant dangers. It is the internet, not the schooling, that should be the focus of MSM attention.

UPDATE:

It seems that the kid who did the shooting was extremely disturbed. He apparently fantasized about and planned out murders like the one he committed, and he seems to have abducted a girl before. His bizarre nature was apparently noted in Lititz and local residents tried to deal with it informally. Part of that accommodation may well have been forbidding their daughters to have anything to do with him. It's not clear whether or not bringing him to the attention of authorities would have forestalled the tragedy that ensued.

There seems to be severe cognitive dissociation involved in MSM coverage of the murders. I watched a CNN anchor attempt to interview neighbors of the murdered couple after their funeral. The neighbors expressed the common Christian faith that righteous people such as the Bordens had. upon their death, gone to a better place and that the funeral, rather than being an occasion for recrimination and regret, should celebrate that belief. The anchor was completely baffled by and obviously uncomfortable with their responses and kept probing for expression of anger and distress. Finding none, she quickly terminated the interview and moved on to an on-site reporter who could give an account of things more to her liking.

Sigh!

OUCH!

From Ananova:
Rugby fan tells how he lost his tackle

A Welsh rugby fan has spoken out about how he hacked off his own testicles after his team beat England.

Geoffrey Huish, 31, took an agonising ten minutes to perform the op using a pair of blunt wire cutters, says the Sun.

Then he put his severed parts in a blue plastic bag and staggered to a social club to tell fellow Wales fans what he'd done.

Jobless Geoffrey finally collapsed with blood pouring from his groin as horrified drinkers put his testicles in a pint glass of ice.

Read it here.

Ruggers! Sheesh!

Lileks Shoots, He Scores!


In the midst of the current hysteria over selling the Iraq war, let's look for a little perspective. James Lileks has a neat little archive of WWII-era domestic propaganda. It serves as a reminder of just how brutally manipulative the government was throughout the "good war" and how very far we have come since those days of enforced national unity and maximal "social capital."

By the way, I have heard it asserted several times that during WWII the government censored all images of dead or dying troops in order to "sanitize" the war. So much for that idea....

Check out Lileks' archive here. While you're there look around -- he has a lot of neat stuff -- and buy his latest book.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Articles of Confederation


On this day in 1777, in the city of Philadelphia, the Second Continental Congress passed the Articles of Confederation and submitted it to the States for ratification. For four years the States debated the document and finally, in 1781 Maryland, the last holdout, accepted it and it went into effect.

Usually described as "America's First Constitution" the articles were more in the form of a treaty -- a "league of friendship" -- among sovereign states that bound them to deliberate and act together in certain areas of endeavor where a united front was deemed imperative, such as relations with foreign countries or with Indian nations. Its major concern was to create mechanisms and procedures to resolve potential disputes that would threaten that unity. It was not concerned with governing or coercing the sovereign states and safeguards were built into the document to preserve and guarantee State sovereignty.

Opinions vary among historians as to the effectiveness of the Articles. Nationalists argue that it was too weak to be effective, but others have pointed out that it was not understood at the time to be a precocious attempt to create a nation and that for most people in most States it was quite adequate.

Here is a link to the Avalon Project at Yale Law School, which has a nice set of links to supporting materials like early drafts prepared by Benjamin Franklin and John Dickinson as well as a fascinating account of the drafting debates in Thomas Jefferson's Autobiography.

Check it out here.

The Free West Expands




The Free West Blog just keeps getting better and better. Started by famous Dutch novelist, Leon deWinter, it soon attracted contributions from heavyweight historian Walter Laqueur, and now from Berkeley bio-statistician, Mark van der Laan. Check it out here.

And, of course, if that isn't enough brainpower for you check out Richard Posner and Gary Becker's blog here.

DNA and Human Migration -- The Spread of Agriculture in Europe

Science Daily reports:

Earliest European Farmers Left Little Genetic Mark On Modern Europe

The farmers who brought agriculture to central Europe about 7,500 years ago did not contribute heavily to the genetic makeup of modern Europeans, according to the first detailed analysis of ancient DNA extracted from skeletons of early European farmers.

The passionate debate over the origins of modern Europeans has a long history, and this work strengthens the argument that people of central European ancestry are largely the descendants of "Old Stone Age," Paleolithic hunter-gatherers who arrived in Europe around 40,000 years ago rather than the first farmers who arrived tens of thousands of years later during the Neolithic Age.

This paper appears in the 11 November 2005 issue of the journal Science published by AAAS the nonprofit science society.

The researchers from Germany, the United Kingdom and Estonia extracted and analyzed DNA from the mitochondria of 24 skeletons of early farmers from 16 locations in Germany, Austria and Hungary. Six of these 24 skeletons contain genetic signatures that are extremely rare in modern European populations. Based on this discovery, the researchers conclude that early farmers did not leave much of a genetic mark on modern European populations.

"This was a surprise. I expected the distribution of mitochondrial DNA in these early farmers to be more similar to the distribution we have today in Europe," said Science author Joachim Burger from Johannes Gutenberg Universit├Ąt Mainz in Mainz, Germany.

"Our paper suggests that there is a good possibility that the contribution of early farmers could be close to zero," said Science author Peter Forster from the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, UK.

Read it here.

John Hawks is skeptical about these results. Read his comments here.

Athena at Rites of Passage is also not convinced. [here]

So the old question of whether the spread of agriculture into Central Europe from the Balkans was a result of cultural diffusion or population replacement is still up in the air. Once again we have journalistic reports of a sensational breakthrough that on closer examination is far less conclusive and important than is claimed.

The Twentieth History Carnival is Up!

Check it out here. In particular, given the state of political discourse today, check out the discussion on whether FDR knew about and distorted intelligence regarding the imminent Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Way to Go Joe -- Lieberman Speaks on Iraq



The Senate failed to pass Sen. Carl Levin's proposed amendment that would have required the administration to set a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. Here's what Sen. Joseph Lieberman had to say about Levin's proposal:
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: "It is no surprise to my colleagues that I strongly supported the war in Iraq. I was privileged to be the Democratic cosponsor, with the Senator from Virginia, of the authorizing resolution which received overwhelming bipartisan support.

"As I look back on it and as I follow the debates about prewar intelligence, I have no regrets about having sponsored and supported that resolution because of all the other reasons we had in our national security interest to remove Saddam Hussein from power, a brutal, murdering dictator, an aggressive invader of his neighbors, a supporter of terrorism, a hater of the United States of America. He was for us a ticking time bomb that if we did not remove him I am convinced would have blown up, metaphorically speaking, in America's face. I am grateful to the American military for the extraordinary bravery and brilliance of their campaign to remove Saddam Hussein.

"I know we are safer as a nation, and to say the obvious that the Iraqi people are freer as a people, and the Middle East has a chance for a new day and stability with Saddam Hussein gone. We will come to another day to debate the past of prewar intelligence. But let me say briefly the questions raised in our time are important. The international intelligence community believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Probably most significant, and I guess historically puzzling, is that Saddam Hussein acted in a way to send a message that he had a program of weapons of mass destruction.

… "I like the way in which the Warner amendment recited again the findings that led us to war against Saddam Hussein and, quite explicitly, cited the progress that has been made. I do think Senator Levin's amendment doesn't quite do this part enough, about the progress, particularly among the political leaders of Iraq. They have done something remarkable in a country that lived for 30 years under a dictator who suppressed all political activity, encouraged the increasing division and bitterness among the Shia's, the Sunnis, the Kurds. These people, with our help and encouragement, have begun to negotiate like real political leaders in a democracy. It is not always pretty. What we do here is not always most attractive. That is democracy. Most important of all, 8 million Iraqis came out in the face of terrorist threats in January to vote on that interim legislation. Almost 10 million came out to vote on a constitution, which is a pretty good document, a historically good document in the context of the Arab world.

"What happened when the Sunnis felt they were not getting enough of what they wanted in a referendum? They didn't go to the street, most of them, with arms to start a civil war; they registered to vote. That is a miraculous achievement and a change in attitude and action. They came out to vote in great numbers, and they will come out, I predict, again in December in the elections and elect enough Sunnis to have an effect on the Constitution next year.

"So I wish that some of that had been stated in Senator Levin's amendment.

… "I had other concerns about Senator Levin's amendment, including particularly the last paragraph which I believe creates a timetable for withdrawal, and I think that is a mistake, particularly in the next 3 to 6 months as the Iraqis stand up a new government. It may not be the intention of the sponsors, but it does send a message that I fear will discourage our troops because it seems to be heading for the door. It will encourage the terrorists, and it will confuse the Iraqi people and affect their judgments as they go forward."
Hat tip, K-Lo, down on the corner. [here]

Thank goodness that there are enough grownups in the Senate to block the feckless posturings of foolish lefties like Levin.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Pennsylvania Politics -- Santorum Gets Desperate


As he slowly sinks into obscurity Rickey Santorum is flailing about for something..., anything that will bring his poll numbers up, and in the process is dispensing with some of his "deeply held" convictions.

The Beaver County Times reports:
BEAVER FALLS - U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum said Saturday that he doesn't believe that intelligent design belongs in the science classroom.

Santorum's comments to The Times are a shift from his position of several years ago, when he wrote in a Washington Times editorial that intelligent design is a "legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in the classroom."
Read it here. The Demagogue looks back at previous statements on the subject by the Senator and notes how radical a change in position this statement is [here].

Well, well now Rickey. Jettisoning that piece of unpopular baggage wasn't too hard, was it? What's next? Fighting the war on terror? Opposition to abortion on demand? Once you start the process of revising your principles, there's no telling where it will take you.

And just in case there is somebody left who hasn't noticed that panic has set in, we have the spectacle of an incumbent two-term Senator issuing a debate challenge to his opponent a year before the election.

Rollcall reports:
Sen. Rick Santorum has formally challenged his probable Dem opponent, Bob Casey Jr., to debates -- a year before the election.
Read the letter here.

Isn't that the sort of thing challengers are supposed to do? I understand the reasoning. Almost everyone agrees that Bobby Casey isn't the brightest bulb on the tree, and the assumption is that his mental deficiencies will be shown up in a debate. So far, Casey has been the invisible candidate, buoyed by voters' fond memories of his father's administration, and has done quite well staying out of the spotlight while Rickey flounders. Dragging him into debates, Republicans hope, will start to drive his poll numbers down. But that is a mark of desperation.

And, to complete the trifecta, Santorum has begun to criticize the administration's handling of the "War on Terror."

As the Inkie reports:
Americans have soured on the war in Iraq because they do not understand it as part of a long and necessary fight against "Islamic fascist forces" bent on destroying democracy - and the White House is partially to blame for not articulating the stakes, U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum said yesterday.
...

It was a rare if tempered criticism of the White House for Santorum, a conservative who has been one of Bush's most loyal votes in the Senate. Although he has taken on the White House on several issues lately, Santorum has mostly refrained from publicly criticizing the war.

After the speech, Santorum was more direct, telling reporters that the conduct of the war had been "less than optimal" and that "maybe some blame could be laid" at the White House. But the only specific mistake he named was how the war has been presented to the public.

Read it here.

There is a medical/psychological concept called "decompensation" [look it up, that way you'll remember it]. That seems to be what is happening to Rickey's campaign. It's still early, and anything can happen, but already I'm hearing from some Republicans that they are writing Santorum off and are looking instead to pick up a Senate seate in New Jersey to balance the loss in Pennsylvania.

Stay tuned.... Things are gonna get a lot crazier than this before the elections.

Jacques Chirac Channels Jimmy Carter


AP reports:

PARIS Nov 14, 2005 — President Jacques Chirac said Monday in his first televised address to the nation since rioting erupted more than two weeks ago that the violence reflected a "profound malaise" in France.

Chirac, speaking with a French tricolor and a European Union flag behind him, said that discrimination seen as a factor behind the unrest should be fought.

But he appeared to rule out U.S.-style affirmative action programs amid a debate over whether France's strict adherence to the principle of equality has caused it to fail in acknowledging and addressing racial tensions.

Read it here.

Ah, yes, the "M" word -- the final admission of total incompetence. When in doubt, blame the public. It didn't work for Jimmah, I doubt it will for Jackie.

Zarqawi Biography -- Portrait of a Monster

Sight and Sign is running a multi-part biography of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. It makes for interesting reading [if you have a strong stomach].

Read it here, and here, and here.

Maryland Politics -- The Great Oreo Debate; Pot, meet Kettle..., Kettle, Pot.


The Baltimore Sun reports on a continuing dispute between Republicans and Democrats over an incident that allegedly took place during the 2002 Gubenatorial campaign. Supposedly, during an appearance at Morgan State, Michael Steele, then candidate for lieutenant governor, was pelted with oreo cookies -- an insulting gesture suggesting that he is not really black. Democrat activists now deny that any such happened and accuse Gov. Ehrlich and the Republican Party with lying about the Morgan appearance. Several prominent Democrats and black activists have joined in the effort to portray the Republicans as liars. Gov. Ehrlich has taken to the airwaves to denounce this attempt at "historical revisionism." Thus does state politics reflect the playground-level idiocy of the national party conflict.

Read it here.

It is apparent from the article that the crowd at Morgan State included a number of left-wing activists who were extremely disruptive, that oreo cookies were passed out among the activists, but that few were actually thrown. Steele himself says that he only saw one thrown on stage. Another participant, an NAACP official, admits that he heard that some students were throwing cookies at each other, but not at Steele. In subsequent retellings accounts of the incident have diverged. Republicans have exaggerated the scale of the insult. Democrats have denied that it happened. Who is the "revisionist", who is the "liar?" Beats me, I wasn't there, but I do note that each party takes a stance on the incident that reflects best on themselves. Clearly something happened that night at Morgan State, but whatever it was, it certainly does not deserve the attention it has been getting lately.