Day By Day

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Mugabe Gets a Pass

I hate to say "I told you so!" [well, actually I love to say it], but I have long held, contrary to the opinion of innumerable IR specialists, that African leaders could not be induced to take action against the genocidal regime of Mad Bobby Mugabe in Zimbabwe.

The Times [of London] reports:

Zimbabwe’s neighbours fell in behind the brutal regime of Robert Mugabe yesterday and demanded that the West lift all sanctions on his country.

With opposition growing at home and a crumbling economy, pressure was mounting on the heads of surrounding states to urge their friend and comrade to reconsider his position. But in a communiqué issued at the end of what was billed as a make-or-break summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), 14 leaders reaffirmed their solidarity with the veteran President of Zimbabwe.

Their words will come as a crushing blow to campaigners who believed the tide to be turning against his increasingly autocratic 27-year rule.

Mr Mugabe smiled as he pushed past reporters in the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam, and declared himself satisfied. “Excellent meeting,” he cried, clapping his hands gleefully, before climbing into a waiting limousine.

Read it here.

Hazleton on Trial

Testimony has concluded in the ACLU’s suit against Hazleton’s “Illegal Immigration Relief Act.” A federal judge will hand down his decision in June. It will probably go against the town. In the meantime we can consider some of the things that have come to light regarding the case.

Steve Chapman, writing in Townhall, notes:

The trial… has not shed flattering light on the competence of those who drafted the law. Mayor Lou Barletta said he was compelled to act when a resident was shot to death, allegedly by two illegal immigrants.

But he had trouble explaining why, if illegal immigrants generate crime, they have been implicated in only about 20 of the 8,500 felonies committed in Hazleton in the last six years. ACLU attorney Witold Walczak also pointed out that amid this supposed crime wave, the city has reduced the size of the police force, despite having a budget surplus.

If Hazleton’s illegal immigrants are prone to crime, they’re the exception. Despite the growth of illegal immigration in the last decade, crime rates have dropped sharply across the country. This may not be a coincidence. In every ethnic group, reports a recent study by Ruben Rumbaut and Walter Ewing for the American Immigration Law Foundation, young men born in the U.S. are far more likely to wind up in prison than those who come here later.

In Hazleton, as elsewhere, the main reason Latino foreigners come is to work and stay out of trouble. In fact, those qualities are the same ones that get them accused of stealing jobs. Even those immigrants who work off the books contribute to the economic health of local businesses by buying goods and services. Hazleton has seen an expansion of its tax base.

So it’s too simple to blame all the city’s newfound troubles on illegal immigrants.

Read the whole thing here.

Chapman argues that the anti-immigrant legislation does not reflect prejudice so much as the strain on local resources caused by the sudden influx of thousands of new residents. He calls on the federal government to stem the tide of immigrants.

But then Julia Vitello-Martin, writing in the Wall Street Journal, reports:

Mayor Lou Barletta argued that some 10,000 undocumented immigrants have ruined Hazleton’s quality of life: Violent crime has doubled in the past two years, unreimbursed medical expenses at local hospitals have jumped 60% and the annual school budget for teaching English as a second language has soared to $875,000 from $500. Yet business owners and landlords argued the opposite–that immigrants had revitalized Hazleton’s moribund economy, filling once-vacant apartments and patronizing once-declining businesses. As a result, Hazleton’s budget has been in the black for three years–a far cry from its $1.2 million deficit in 2000.

So apparently the influx has had a beneficial effect on local resources. Ms. Vitullo-Martin notes that this has been a general pattern in other cities that serve as immigrant destinations.

Read it here.

So, if it isn’t an upsurge in crime, or depletion of local resources, then what is left? Sheer prejudice? I think not.

A friend of mine from Hazleton explains:

[T]he thing is not the sheer number of crimes, but the types of crimes that were committed. Very public ones, very frightening ones. It was the couple of drive-by shootings and, I think especially, the melees and assaults and alleged rapes in public schools, and the brandishing of guns in playgrounds and malls. There may not have been all that many of these events, but their symbolic import is out of all proportion to their actual numbers: they are the sorts of things that seem to indicate that anarchy is actually engulfing the place. And the cultural issues matter, too. It really does matter when people don’t bother to use garbage cans, and befoul neighborhoods that people had once at least tried to keep reasonably clean. The loud music that makes sleep difficult, the smarmy sexual come-ons to unescorted women on the streets. They matter. They aren’t felonies. In fact, they’re standard operating procedure in the barrios of San Juan. But they matter.

Indeed they do! Behavior that outrages mainstream middle-class sensibilities is an important element in quality-of-life issues and a clash of cultures can explain a lot of the anti-immigrant reaction, but even this is something of a fantasy.
My friend writes:

I see Hazleton as a place where a lot of ordinary, middle-to-working class people wanted nothing other than to be allowed to live the way they had lived for years.

I’m sure that a lot of people see things that way. However, as Ms. Vitello-Martin, points out — change was already taking place before the immigrant influx. The downtowns of small cities were already hollowing out as businesses and people moved away, and rather than precipitating decline, immigrants were responding to it, flocking to places were property values and rents had already declined to the point where homes were now affordable even to recent arrivals in the country. Immigrants are being blamed for a decline that they did not cause, and to which they may well represent a solution.

So what we are left with is outraged sensibilities, and as my friend pointed out, they do matter. The question is, do they matter more than the aspirations of the newcomers and the economic revitalization they represent?

Friday, March 30, 2007

Getting Over Reagan

David Brooks, writing in yesterday’s New York Times, riffs on a perceptive piece by Tyler Cowen in Cato Unbound [the essential blog for libertarians]. Brooks’ piece is behind a subscription firewall so I will cite it extensively. The Cowen piece is online and can be read here.

Brooks’ argument is roughly as follows: Republicans cannot revive their political fortunes by looking back to Reaganism. That was an appropriate response to a particular historical situation but the principles on which it was founded are no longer applicable to the very different world of the twenty-first century.

Ronald Reagan came to the presidency at a time when the top tax rate was 70%, when socialism had not yet been discredited, and when federal regulation was stifling the economy. In that situation many reasonable, non-ideological people could accept the argument that big government was a serious threat to their liberties and future prospects. As Cowen puts it, the “old story” was “big government crushes liberty”.

But things have changed in the past quarter century. Today reasonable people see external forces as the greatest threats to their lives and liberties. They worry about globalization, environmental change, Islamist terrorism, the high costs of health care and the like, and in these circumstances people look to the government to protect them and their liberties. A new storyline, “advances in liberty bring bigger government,” or as Brooks has it, “security leads to freedom,” has replaced the old Reaganite formula in the minds of most Americans.

Because they are heavily invested in abstract principles intellectuals and political activists have been slow to recognize that the ground has been shifting beneath their feet. They still hold to principled arguments long after they have become politically dysfunctional. People might not like big government, high taxes and bureaucratic regulation, but they also want government to act to protect them from a myriad of threats and to them Reaganite rhetoric is a turnoff. The GOP, in other words, finds itself increasingly out of touch with the mainstream of American public opinion.

Brooks then makes an important point. He writes:

The sad thing is that President Bush sensed this shift in public consciousness back in 1999. Compassionate conservatism was an attempt to move beyond the “liberty vs. power” paradigm.

Here Brooks is absolutely right. President Bush has been far more astute and prescient than his critics.

Both major parties are afflicted with ideological hard-liners who, proclaiming themselves to be “the base”, have sought to force the mainstream into a retro political mode. If the Democrat Left is forever reliving the Seventies and Vietnam and Watergate, the Reaganite Right remains mired in the Eighties. The one major political figure who has been willing to take a mature and responsible approach to the problems of government is the man who actually has to govern — President Bush. For this he has paid a terrible political price.

Not only has Dubya been vilified by both the Left and the Right, but in last year’s elections fringe elements of the Republican coalition, determined to administer a “thumpin’” to those who they saw as not sufficiently principled, delivered control of the government to Democrats who are now using that power irresponsibly to undermine the administration. Pelosi and company are less concerned with effective government than in being able to enter the next election cycle portraying Bush as a failure, and that seems to be OK with the hardliners.

Brooks argues that President Bush could have avoided this if he simply explained his policies more effectively. I’m not sure. For those who consider themselves “the base” the “politics of principle” are impenetrable to explanation. The ideologues stubbornly hold to a reassuring vision of a glorious past and comfort themselves with the fantasy that a return to Reaganite principles is all that is necessary to regain political ascendency, but that is a recipe for disaster. Rather than luxuriating in the politics of the past, Republicans have to align themselves, as Dubya has tried to do, with the sensibilities of today’s voters.
As Brooks concludes, “Goldwater and Reagan were important leaders, but they’re not models for the future.”

To which I can only add, “Amen!”


Oh my! No sooner do I post this than I go over to the “Corner” to find this. Jonah Goldberg, who I respect and read regularly, produced a paragraph that perfectly sums up the unfortunate attitude I was decrying above. He writes:

The conservative movement is not primarily nor even really secondarily about winning elections. Conservatives are about winning arguments or, if you prefer, winning hearts and minds. The Republican Party can be a useful tool in this regard, but it’s an unwieldy and ultimately unreliable one. Personally, I think the GOP and conservatism have become too intertwined. This is good when it makes the GOP more conservative, but it’s bad when it makes conservatism more like a political party.

He wrote this in response to the Brooks article, which seems to be causing quite a stir in the conservative blogosphere. Read the whole post here. And, by all means, go over to The American Scene and read Ross Douthat’s eminently sensible take on the controversy [here]. Douthat points out that many of the policy issues that really interest conservatives, free-trade, ending farm subsidies and the home-mortgage deduction, means-testing Social Security, and the like are “either extremely uninteresting or extremely unpopular with most voters” and when Bush has followed conservative recommendations he has suffered politically.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


My ankle is on the mend -- enough so that I can once again enjoy walking [slowly, more like hobbling] around Baltimore neighborhoods with my camera. Today I walked along South Charles Street toward the Harbor through the Otterbein section of the city.

Spring has finally arrived. Trees are budding.

Daffodils are up.

And one lone magnolia is in full blossom.

Aaaaahhhhh! It's been a long time coming!

The Progress of Peace

In the past I have noted studies that show, contrary to popular perception, that the world has been getting more peaceful in recent years. One study, funded by the United Nations, attributes this to the spreading influence of international nongovernmental institutions; another study attributes it to the spread of American influence after the collapse of the Soviet Union; another attributes it to the end of the Cold War. [See here, here, and here]

Stephen Pinker has noted the same phenomenon and argues:

Violence has been in decline over long stretches of history, and today we are probably living in the most peaceful moment of our species' time on earth.


The decline of violence is a fractal phenomenon, visible at the scale of millennia, centuries, decades, and years. It applies over several orders of magnitude of violence, from genocide to war to rioting to homicide to the treatment of children and animals. And it appears to be a worldwide trend, though not a homogeneous one. The leading edge has been in Western societies, especially England and Holland, and there seems to have been a tipping point at the onset of the Age of Reason in the early seventeenth century.
This long term trend has several important implications.

First, the seemingly endless dispute between Hobbes and Rosseau has been finally settled. Hobbes famously argued that the natural state of mankind is "nasty, brutal, and short." Rosseau, on the other hand, posited the existence of a "noble savage" uncorrupted by civilization. It seems that Hobbes had it right -- the progress of civilization has been accompanied by a decline in the incidence of violence.

Second, theories intended to explain short-term declines in violence are inadequate to explain the long-term trend emerging from several independent studies. Pinker notes three alternative explanations that have recently been offered.

1) Increasing peacefulness results from the rise of centralized states that enforce a monopoly on the use of violence.

2) Prosperity makes lives more worth living and decreases our willingness to inflict death.

3) A progressive increase in knowledge about the world increases our willingness to accord moral status to others.

None of these seems to me to be very satisfactory, but they represent the current state of thinking on this important subject.

Third, how can general perceptions be so wrong? Pinker asks:
How could so many people be so wrong about something so important?
Here there are several possible answers. I won't spoil them for you. Read Pinker's little essay for yourself here. I will, however, note his final point because it is both true and important. Our pessimism, born of a mistaken perception that the incidence of violence is rising, has led us to ask the wrong questions. Instead of asking why there is war, we should be wondering why there is peace. Instead of lamenting the things that go wrong, we should be trying to understand what it is that we are doing right?


There's altogether too much book-porn on the web. For instance, this site, or this one.

Another Charming Old World Custom -- Poo Day

It's that time of year again -- St. George's Day is coming soon and the Scots are preparing to celebrate it in their inimitable way.

Sky News reports:

A Scottish company has been slammed for inviting customers to "send a poo" to an Englishman on St George's Day.

Edinburgh-based firm is selling plastic "realistic poo" to send to "your favourite (or least favourite) Englishman" to mark April 23.

Customers are given the choice between human or dog-style excrement, wrapped in tissue paper along with a personal message set beside the English flag.

But some people cannot take a joke. An Anglophile politician weighs in:

"It appears to me to be threatening, possibly racist and without question bigoted. It's certainly offensive and possibly an offence."

Racist? Racist!!! More proof that the term has lost all connection with reality.

Read about it here.

Rove Raps

Catch Karl Rove's performance at last night's White House Correspondents' Dinner.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Aaron Goldstein has a a nice review of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's autobiography, Infidel, over at Intellectual Conservative. Check it out here and marvel at the courage of this extraordinary woman.

Hat Tip: JB

For more on this amazing woman who lives every day under a threat of death but yet maintains a public presence see Cliff May's biographical piece here.

Even better, click on the Amazon link at the top of this page and buy her book, Infidel.


Check out Fred Thompson's commentary on this brave woman here.

Zimbabwe Update -- And So It Begins

Zim Online reports:

HARARE – Zimbabwe police on Wednesday arrested main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in a raid at his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party headquarters in Harare, a party spokesman told the media.

Tsvangirai was due to brief the Press on the alleged abduction of MDC activists by suspected government secret agents when heavily armed police pounced, nabbing the opposition politician and about 20 members of the administrative staff.

Read it here.

Contrary to the Pollyannish maunderings of the MSM and European Dips Mad Bobby Mugabe has remained true to form. In other words, he is reacting to pressures to step down in a characteristically ruthless way. Arresting the leadership of the opposition party is just the first step of this response. A very bad season is coming.

Common Sense from Michael Crichton on Fear Mongering

Scott Burgess has a nice interview with Michael Crichton over at the Daily Ablution. My favorite quote:

[F]ears are a matter of fashion. Worries are like clothing styles, they come and go, rise and fall, based on what the worry fashion leaders tell the herd of independent minds to fear this year.
Read the whole thing here.

And in a related item, the despicable fear mongers are projecting their nonsensical crap into the minds of school children.

Every generation has its fears. Before the polio vaccine, parents kept their children indoors on hot summer days — no swimming pools, no picnics. Then came the Cold War and its fears of sudden annihilation. For several years after the 9/11 attacks, terrorism dominated the worry agenda.

But today, concern about climate change appears to be replacing atomic Armageddon or anthrax epidemics. For some families, compost piles have supplanted bomb shelters and duct tape as household essentials.

The news has really been unremittingly bad,'' says Madeline Levine, an adolescent psychologist in Marin County, Calif., and author of a book on the angst of today's middle-class kids. Increasingly, Levine says, she sees young patients beset by their fears for the planet. "They're worried,'' Levine says, "and they're angry. They feel that older generations screwed up the Earth and now it's up to them to fix — but they don't have the skills or ability to do it.''

Levine estimates that one in three children struggles with anxiety, and that many have fixated on global warming.

That's right! These creeps have not only worked a significant portion of the population into hysterical rage, they have insinuated themselves into out schools and are scaring the crap out of our children.


Read it here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Zimbabwe Update -- Mugabe Mobilizes His Base

As criticism mounts, Mad Bobby Mugabe is turning to his most reliable supporters.

The Scotsman reports:

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is drafting his feared war veterans into a specially created army reserve as he steps up a clampdown on the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Former fighters in Zimbabwe's guerrilla war of the 1970s will be given military training and will be deployed for military duties, according to a special government gazette printed in Harare yesterday.


Mr Mugabe knows he can count on the loyalty of his war veterans. He used them to spearhead the violent invasions of hundreds of white-owned farms in 2000.

War veterans were also used to beat and intimidate rural voters ahead of parliamentary elections in 2000 and presidential elections in 2002.

Read the whole thing here.

If the old monster holds true to form this is all a prelude to a major wave of violence. Let us hope it can be avoided.

At Last!!!

Der Spiegel reports:

Ian Paisley meeting Gerry Adams? It was an event of lion-laying-down-with-lamb proportions, as Paisley, a Protestant minister with a taste for fiery Biblical rhetoric, might describe it -- even though each side would doubtlessly argue over who was the lion and who was the lamb.

The meeting was certainly a historic breakthrough for Northern Ireland. Arch-rivals Paisley and Adams have long been icons of the Protestant and Catholic sides respectively in the long and bitter struggle over who should rule Northern Ireland. Paisley is the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which wants to keep Northern Ireland's ties to Britain, while Adams is president of Sinn Fein, whose ultimate goal is a united Ireland.

The two men held their first ever face-to-face meeting Monday in the Northern Ireland Assembly buildings in Stormont, Belfast. However the two arch-rivals did not shake hands, according to officials from both sides.

Afterwards they announced a deal to forge a power-sharing administration by May 8, which will lead to a new era of home rule for the province.

Read it here.

Of course nothing is final yet, and much has to be worked out, but this is incredibly great news!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Recommended Reading: Spinning Clio

One of the best history blogs out there is Marc Comtois' "Spinning Clio."

In recent posts Marc has exposed the deep hypocrisy that characterizes the public stances of the American Historical Association. The organization, invoking a highly questionable interpretations of international law, has denounced the Bush administration for alleged violations while at the same time ignoring the innumerable blatant abuses of law perpetrated by Islamist terrorists. He has also noted the selective interest of mainstream historians who tend to ignore solid historical work that runs counter to liberal interests. One such work is Jennifer Weber's critical study of the "peace Democrats" during the Civil War, titled Copperheads: The Rise and Fall of Lincoln's Opponents In the North. And he notes the AHA's failure to condemn stonewalling on the Clinton presidential records, some of which might shed unfavorable light on Mrs. Clinton's role during her husband's presidency.

But the hypocrisy of leading lights in the historical profession is an old subject, one that is always with us and so blatant as to make an easy target. The whole discussion tires me, and if Marc were to focus only on that point, I wouldn't pay any attention to his work. But there is more, much more in his writings. He brings a sharp, conservative, critical perspective to his immensely wide-ranging excursions through history and what people are saying and writing about it. He's well worth reading.

Check him out here.

One For Katie

I have never been much of a Katie Couric fan and usually avoid shows on which she appears, but this time I'm on her side. Apparently in a recent interview she was insufficiently "sensitive" in questioning John and Elizabeth Edwards and now the MSM and the bloggies are jumping all over her. [clip here] Mickey Kaus wants to "throttle" her [here].

Way to go Katie! Stick to your guns. This "sensitivity" crap is nothing less than an attempt to limit permissible speech and thus to control what people can know and even think. It should be opposed whenever it appears.

[Besides, this gives me an opportunity to run this picture. It's been sitting in my files for many months and I knew that eventually it would be appropriate.]

Reefer Madness

The Times of London reports:

By the end of the decade one in four new cases of schizophrenia could be triggered by smoking cannabis, scientists say.

Research has suggested that regular users of the drug are up to six times more likely to develop schizophrenia, although whether the drug is the direct cause remains disputed.

The Department of Health says it is now generally agreed among doctors that cannabis is an “important causal factor” in mental illness.

A study published in the journal Addiction predicts that, if the causal link between cannabis use and schizophrenia is accepted, rates of the illness will increase substantially by 2010, especially among young men.

The use of cannabis grew fourfold over the 30 years to 2002, and eighteenfold among under18s, the researchers say.

Such a boom in cannabis use could lead to increases in the number of new cases of schizophrenia of 29 per cent between 1990 and 2010.

Read the whole thing here.

At last, an explanation for the madness that seems to have affected so much of our political culture..., naaaah!

Zimbabwe Update -- Is This the End of Bobby?

Let us sincerely hope so!

BBC Reports:

[I]nfluential members of the ruling party and the Opposition are mapping out an end to the Mugabe era.

Opposition sources say leading members of President Robert Mugabe's own party have discussed how to sideline their longstanding leader.

Mr Mugabe's iron grip on his own party is gradually loosening. Two factions inside the party, led by former security chief Emmerson Mnangagwa and the former head of the Army, Solomon Mujuru, have held talks to try a find an exit strategy.

They have met Opposition Leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who was beaten by police after being arrested at an anti-Mugabe rally earlier this month.

The talks have been held in the run-up to a key meeting of the central committee of the ruling Zanu-PF party, due to be held next week, at which Mr Mugabe will confront his critics.

Read the whole thing here.

But don't get your hopes too far up. Mugabe's demise has been predicted before and the old madman is still around. Also, note that the source for this report is the opposition leadership which has never been right about anything in the past. And there is also the possibility that Mad Bobby's "critics" will either recant or fail to live long enough to attend the upcoming party meetings.

And, even if a coup is in the making, there is no real likelihood that Bobby's successor will be any improvement. Emmerson Mnangagwa has been complicit in the worst of Mugabe's crimes against humanity and heads a criminal conspiracy that has made him the richest man in Zim.

Solomon Mujuru is no better. His crimes have been so great that he and his wife have been personally singled out for sanctions by western governments.

Both men have strong institutional and tribal power bases and have long hated each other. Should Mugabe be removed, there is a strong possibility that they will square off in a bloody civil war.

So don't get your hopes up too much. Just a little.

The Coming Crisis

Mark Steyn looks at the swelling troubles that afflict President Mussaraf's regime in Pakistan and notes:

If you had to draw one of those organizational charts of the world's problems, Pakistan would be at the center of them.

Read the whole thing here.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

A Nearly Perfect [and perfectly nasty] Film -- "Rear Window"

Yep, that's "Bunny," long before he became "Perry."

I have long thought that Hitchcock's Rear Window was a nearly perfect film -- one that does not suffer, indeed becomes more enjoyable, through repeated viewings. Others, however, have not shared my enthusiasm. One who does appreciate this masterpiece is Edward Copeland. Go here to read his excellent discussion of the intellectual rewards of viewing, and thinking about, this wonderful [as in wonder-filled] film.

Warning: thinking too much about this film can lead you to a realization of just what Hitchcock was doing to you and the characters all along, and to an appreciation of what an unspeakable monster he really was.

Girls With Guns

After viewing today's Chris Muir cartoon I decided to check out Oleg Volk's "Girls With Guns" site. It's pretty neat, particularly since several of the images turn the left's slogans back on them.


Check it out here.

Bad Historian..., Bad..., Bad!

Ask a member of the reading public, a PBS viewer, or the MSM to name a definitive study of the mid-Twentieth Century Civil Rights movement and they will probably respond by citing Taylor Branch's Pulitzer Prize winning trilogy on America in the King Years: Parting the Waters; Pillar of Fire; and At Canaan's Edge.

These immensely popular volumes have been hugely influential in shaping our perception of the middle decades of the Twentieth Century, but are they accurate?

The answer is a resounding "No!"

Ralph Luker, himself a noted civil rights historian, writes:
Branch is a brilliant writer, but put your finger on any page in his civil rights trilogy, give me some time, and I'll find the errors.
Read it here.

The comments come in a description of Branch's most recent effort: a series of secret interviews he conducted with Bill Clinton during the 1990's. They will be published under the title Wrestling History: The Bill Clinton Tapes, despite the fact that Branch has no tapes of the interviews. They were confiscated by Bill Clinton who stashed them in his sock drawer!!! No telling where they might be now.

Knowledgable persons within the historical profession are well aware of Taylor Branch's shoddy work. It is time that the general public be made aware of the same.

The whole point of peer review is to guarantee the validity of information dispensed by scholars. Here, as in so many cases, the process has broken down and inferior work has been certified and granted status it does not deserve.

Friday, March 23, 2007

"Bush Lied" is the Big Lie

Debra Saunders revisits the left wing campaign to convince people that President Bush lied us into the war in Iraq.

Bush Lied is the Big Lie. It takes the controversy over one aspect of U.S. intelligence on Iraq's WMD -- the nuclear program question -- to argue that the whole WMD argument was bogus. That is, the president's accusers are guilty of the very sort of dishonest selectivity that they accuse Bush of using.

Read the whole thing here.

The Moral Equivalent of War -- Global Warming

Jonah explains the underlying imperative beneath Gore's rhetoric of global catastrophe:

[S]olving the problem [of global warming] isn’t really the point. As Gore makes it clear in his book, Earth in the Balance, he wants to change attitudes more than he wants to solve problems.

Indeed, he wants to change attitudes about government as much as he wants to preach environmentalism. Global warming is what William James called a “moral equivalent of war” that gives political officials the power to do things they could never do without a crisis. As liberal journalist James Ridgeway wrote in the early 1970s: “Ecology offered liberal-minded people what they had longed for, a safe, rational and above all peaceful way of remaking society ... (and) developing a more coherent central state.”

This explains Gore’s relentless talk of “consensus,” his ugly moral bullying of “deniers” and, most of all, his insistence that because there’s no time left to argue, everyone should do what he says.

Isn’t it interesting how the same people who think “dissent is the highest form of patriotism” when it comes to the war think that dissent when it comes to global warming is evil and troglodytic?

Emphases mine

Read the whole thing here.


In case you ever wondered why actresses seem determined to adopt rather than to actually have kids [at least until their careers are pretty much over], here's a graphic illustration of the reason.

Pregnancy transformed Salma Hayek from this:

Into this!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Jazz Baby!

Check out this HUGE talent -- Renee Olstead. When you are this good, who needs "American Idol"?

All I can say is "WOW!"

More On the Crumbling Climate Consensus

Even as Al Gore took his apocalyptic dog and pony show to Capitol Hill, we learned from NASA that long-term climate changes are correlated with solar output.

Long-term climate records are a key to understanding how Earth's climate changed in the past and how it may change in the future. Direct measurements of light energy emitted by the sun, taken by satellites and other modern scientific techniques, suggest variations in the sun's activity influence Earth's long-term climate. However, there were no measured climate records of this type until the relatively recent scientific past.

Scientists have traditionally relied upon indirect data gathering methods to study climate in the Earth's past, such as drilling ice cores in Greenland and Antarctica. Such samples of accumulated snow and ice drilled from deep within ice sheets or glaciers contain trapped air bubbles whose composition can provide a picture of past climate conditions. Now, however, a group of NASA and university scientists has found a convincing link between long-term solar and climate variability in a unique and unexpected source: directly measured ancient water level records of the Nile, Earth's longest river.

Alexander Ruzmaikin and Joan Feynman of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., together with Dr. Yuk Yung of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif., have analyzed Egyptian records of annual Nile water levels collected between 622 and 1470 A.D. at Rawdah Island in Cairo. These records were then compared to another well-documented human record from the same time period: observations of the number of auroras reported per decade in the Northern Hemisphere....
Emphasis mine.

Well, whaddaya know? They found correlations!

The researchers found some clear links between the sun's activity and climate variations. The Nile water levels and aurora records had two somewhat regularly occurring variations in common - one with a period of about 88 years and the second with a period of about 200 years.
They even propose a mechanism.

So what causes these cyclical links between solar variability and the Nile? The authors suggest that variations in the sun's ultraviolet energy cause adjustments in a climate pattern called the Northern Annular Mode, which affects climate in the atmosphere of the Northern Hemisphere during the winter. At sea level, this mode becomes the North Atlantic Oscillation, a large-scale seesaw in atmospheric mass that affects how air circulates over the Atlantic Ocean. During periods of high solar activity, the North Atlantic Oscillation's influence extends to the Indian Ocean. These adjustments may affect the distribution of air temperatures, which subsequently influence air circulation and rainfall at the Nile River's sources in eastern equatorial Africa. When solar activity is high, conditions are drier, and when it is low, conditions are wetter.

This last is important, because a great deal of the anthropogenic scare scenario depends not just on predictive models but on a plausible mechanism for explaining how climate changes. Now you have not only contrary evidence indicating a solar rather than human agency, you also have a plausible mechanism for the alternative scenario being proposed.

The case for the anthropogenic apocalypse just keeps getting weaker and weaker.

Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Thompson on Civil Service Reform

I can't take Fred Thompson very seriously as a candidate..., yet. At this point he, like Barak Obama, seems to be more a symbolic focus of voter discontent, a fantasy alternative to realistic political action, than anything else. But, unlike Obama, he does have some interesting things to say. I was particularly struck by this excerpt from an interview with David Frum:

Mr. Thompson says that while a senator he was long concerned with U.S. intelligence failures. "The CIA has better politicians than it has spies," he says, referring to the internecine turf wars that have been a feature of the Bush administration.

A key problem, Mr. Thompson notes, is a general lack of accountability in government, where no one pays any price for failure. When asked about President Bush's awarding the Medal of Freedom to outgoing CIA Director George Tenet after U.S. intelligence failures in Iraq became apparent, he shakes his head: "I just didn't understand that."

The next president, according to Mr. Thompson, needs to exercise strong leadership "and get down in the weeds and fix a civil-service system that makes it too hard to hire good employees and too hard to fire bad ones." He doesn't offer specifics on what to do, but notes the "insanity" of the new Congress pushing for the unionization of homeland security employees only five years after it rejected the notion in the wake of 9/11. "Should we tie ourselves up in bureaucratic knots with the challenges we may have to face?" he asks in wonderment.

Read it here.

At last, a major political figure who is willing to admit that the permanent federal government is dysfunctional and, more to the point, is willing to campaign on that issue. I can remember JFK complaining about the problem, but doing nothing about it. Reagan, too, complained and threatened to take action, but settled on "starving the beast" which achieved little. Clinton/Gore talked about the problem, but referred it to a commission that went nowhere. Dubya is the first President to actively confront the issue -- pushing for wide-reaching reforms of the DOD, State, the entire intelligence apparatus and FEMA. The result has been a concerted bureaucratic effort to undermine and destroy his administration -- one that in wartime borders on treason.

At least the Iraq war has provided an opportunity to clear some of the deadwood out of the DOD. It's taken four years, and the forced resignation of a lot of people, but at last the military is beginning to function effectively and efficiently in the face of today's challenges. What is needed now is a similar assault on other federal agencies -- breaking up the logjams, and clearing out the deadwood careerists.

Is Fred Thompson the guy to do it? We will see. If he makes civil service reform a major campaign issue, I may just vote for the guy.

Left Wing Quackery

Yuval Levin discusses the essential argument underlying the global warming controversy and notes that it has been an effective tactic of the Left for a long, long time. Yet, surprisingly, people still fall for it. He writes:
The equation of left-wing ideals with pure reason (and therefore of opponents with dark ignorance) is an old crutch of course, and never quite goes out of style....

There are elitist and populist forms of this argument. The elitist form says your enemies are themselves incapable of rational thought, which has the satisfying advantage of leaving you smug, but the unfortunate drawback of requiring you to call the voting public a bunch of dupes. The populist form of the argument helps you out of this jam by asserting that your enemies are outright enemies of reason, actively working and conniving to fool the public and darken the stage, so that rather than a bunch of dupes the voters are victims to be rescued. Gore seems to be aiming for the latter case. It’s a view that borders on conspiracy quackery, but is amazingly common among the intellectual elite now.
Indeed it is. Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Iran -- Prospects for the Future

Jonah Goldberg, down on the Corner, makes a very pertinent observation regarding Iran's political culture. Reacting to a Time magazine report of a speech at which President Ahmadinejad was heckled by irate students he concludes:

This just isn't that repressive a society. For all the talk of Iran's autocratic tyrants, here you have the president being burned in effigy, interrupted by firecrackers, and condemned to death, all while he's giving a speech. And he does nothing more than "smilie tightly" throughout it! In this country, if an activist exposes an anti-war t-shirt while the president is talking, she gets muscled out of the room. That's not to say Iran doesn't have all sorts of human rights violations of its own, but the attempt to make the country look like some sort of tyrannical, dictatorial regime is just another element of the war propaganda.
Read it here.

Absolutely! For years we have been hearing from analysts on all sides fantasies about Iran. These are based on three indisputable points:

1) Iran's leadership is trying strenuously to establish itself as a regional hegemon.

2) Iranian students are largely disaffected from the regime, but don't pose a real revolutionary threat.

3) Iran has disaffected ethnic minorities that do pose a real revolutionary threat, especially the Kurds.

Opponents of the war have long predicted that extensive protest bubbling under the surface will eventually lead to an overthrow of the Mullahs or dissolution of the multi-ethnic Iranian state. Ain't gonna happen, although the protests will continue, especially in the north!

Proponents of military action point to Iran's pan-Islamist propaganda, anti-Western actions, and development of nuclear weapons, all of which are part of its drive for regional hegemony, as posing a clear and present threat to the West. Ain't so, although Israel certainly has cause to be worried.

Advocates of "soft" power and diplomacy only solutions have argued that increasing Iranian engagement with the West will lead to an acceptable resolution of current issues. Ain't gonna happen! Talk not backed by a realistic prospect of severe economic or military sanctions will prove to be useless. Iran will continue to be a focus of regional tension for a long, long time.

Bush bashers predict that he will lead us into war against Iran. Ain't gonna happen, and everyone knows it!

Regarding the threat to regimes throughout the region -- the most probable outcome is the emergence of a united Sunni front that will rely to a great extent on Western aid, especially guarantees from the United States, much like the coalition that emerged to resist the expansion of Soviet power into Western Europe at the end of WWII. If so, Iranian aggression will actually strengthen, not weaken, US and Western influence in the region.

Iran's actions to quell ethnic unrest have resulted in real human rights abuses that are rightly denounced by the West, but are hardly on the scale of the kinds of atrocities committed by Saddam's regime in Iraq, and look what happened when the US finally moved against that monster.

What does it all add up to? There ain't gonna be a war -- not anytime soon. But there will be continued provocation and tension caused by Iran's expansionist ambitions.

There will be no general Islamist revolution throughout the region, although there will be continued Islamist activity and agitation everywhere, much of it supported by Iran.

Political partisans in the US will continue to milk the situation for political advantage and in the course of doing so will spin ever more absurd fantasies which will be eagerly be broadcast by the press.

There will be no resolution to the Iran problem anytime soon.

Iranian actions and our response to them will have a major impact on the development of West Asia for a long time to come.

Mini cold war anyone?

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Continuing Collapse of Scientific Authority -- Global Average Temperature

I've been saying this for a long time -- there is no such thing as a global average temperature. What you get is an average for the points and times measured and depending on what you choose to measure and when and at what altitude you can get radically different results. Finally, credentialed "scientists" make this obvious point as well as several others I had not considered.

From Science Daily:
Discussions on global warming often refer to 'global temperature.' Yet the concept is thermodynamically as well as mathematically an impossibility, says Bjarne Andresen, a professor at The Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, who has analyzed this topic in collaboration with professors Christopher Essex from University of Western Ontario and Ross McKitrick from University of Guelph, Canada.


"It is impossible to talk about a single temperature for something as complicated as the climate of Earth", Bjarne Andresen says, an an expert of thermodynamics. "A temperature can be defined only for a homogeneous system. Furthermore, the climate is not governed by a single temperature. Rather, differences of temperatures drive the processes and create the storms, sea currents, thunder, etc. which make up the climate".

He explains that while it is possible to treat temperature statistically locally, it is meaningless to talk about a a global temperature for Earth. The Globe consists of a huge number of components which one cannot just add up and average. That would correspond to calculating the average phone number in the phone book. That is meaningless. Or talking about economics, it does make sense to compare the currency exchange rate of two countries, whereas there is no point in talking about an average 'global exchange rate'.

If temperature decreases at one point and it increases at another, the average will remain the same as before, but it will give rise to an entirely different thermodynamics and thus a different climate. If, for example, it is 10 degrees at one point and 40 degrees at another, the average is 25 degrees. But if instead there is 25 degrees both places, the average is still 25 degrees. These two cases would give rise to two entirely different types of climate, because in the former case one would have pressure differences and strong winds, while in the latter there would be no wind.


A further problem with the extensive use of 'the global temperature' is that there are many ways of calculating average temperatures.

Example 1: Take two equally large glasses of water. The water in one glass is 0 degrees, in the other it is 100 degrees. Adding these two numbers and dividing by two yields an average temperature of 50 degrees. That is called the arithmetic average.

Example 2: Take the same two glasses of water at 0 degrees and 100 degrees, respectively. Now multiply those two numbers and take the square root, and you will arrive at an average temperature of 46 degrees. This is called the geometric average. (The calculation is done in degrees Kelvin which are then converted back to degrees Celsius.)

The difference of 4 degrees is the energy which drives all the thermodynamic processes which create storms, thunder, sea currents, etc.

Read the whole thing here.

Zimbabwe Update

I've been chronicling the ongoing disaster that is Mad Bobby Mugabe's rule in Zimbabwe. Gateway Pundit has a roundup on the latest atrocities here.

Check out these stats:

Rate of Inflation: 1,740%.
Unemployment: 80%.
HIV infection rate: 33%.
Life expectancy: 34.

I blame Bush.

The Best Laid Plans... Aft Gang Agley

Hat Tip: Instapundit

The Ecconomist notes runaway inflation in Venezuela and Zimbabwe, the failure of the Airbus enterprise, and popular disenchantment with the EU. [here]

Instapundit asks, "what do they all have in common?"

The Daily Pundit answers -- "Socialism!"

I blame Bush..., or global warming..., whatever.

I Saw "300" -- You Should Too!

I saw it. I didn’t mean to see it, but I did.

“She Who Must Not Be Named” and I drove down to Reading the other day to see “Zodiac” but with one thing and another we arrived too late. The sign said that “300” was about to start in five minutes, so we paid our money and took our chances.

“She” liked it a lot. In particular she liked the painterly quality of the images and the “six-pack abs” of the Spartans. So impressed was “She” that Daniel Craig is going to have to move aside to make space for Gerard Butler in her pantheon of ripped Brits.

My feelings were mixed. As a visual feast the film had a lot to recommend it. Like “Sin City” it successfully transports the viewer into a graphic novel with all the stylistic and narrative conventions that implies. Those conventions, however, limit the scope for acting, character development, and narrative complexity, all of which were sorely lacking in ‘300”. Taken on its own terms, as a fantasy adventure story, loosely based on a legendary historical incident it was highly successful and even enjoyable. But, like many others, I expect a bit more from a cinematic experience. I found that I could not suspend my disbelief or critical faculties and simply let the movie wash over me.

Part of the problem was that I am an historian. Time and again I had to stifle protests of “But…, but…, but, it wasn’t that way at all!” I went into the film knowing that the history presented on the screen was a crock, and it is probably unfair to complain that “300” is ahistorical. It is a movie treatment of a comic book that was based on an episode in Greek history that from the beginning had become the stuff of legend. In such a situation realism is not remotely a consideration. Still, old critical habits die hard and I missed the Athenians and Thespians, both of whom were conspicuously absent from the film through hardly from Thermopylae.

There were only two aspects of the story that really disturbed me. The first had to do with the nature of Spartan society. It’s a cliché that no longer has any force, but it is still a bit jarring to hear representatives of a slave society prattling on about “freedom.” Of course, “freedom” did not mean the same thing to Leonidas’ warrior aristocrats as it does to us today. We think in terms of personal freedom, but in the traditional societies of the fifth century BC very few people, even kings, were free of complex webs of dependency and obligation. When the Spartans spoke of freedom, what they really meant was freedom from foreign domination, and in that respect the film is remarkably true to the spirit of the age it depicts.

The second major problem I had was the depiction of religion. I am not a comics fan, but have been told that Frank Miller is hostile to organized religion and that an anti-religious sensibility permeates his work. It certainly was a blatant feature of “Sin City.” His depiction here of the ephors, Sparta’s annually elected high magistrates, is simply grotesque and superfluous to the story he is telling. The whole oracle episode is simply a gratuitous slap at religion – one that drew me out of the story.

In other ways, “300” was remarkably true to the spirit of the times it purports to represent.

“300” has been criticized for portraying its heroes as racist xenophobes, but that is what they were. Classical Greeks as a whole drew sharp and invidious distinctions between those who shared their culture and the “barbarians” of other lands, and in that regard Spartans were perhaps the worst. They saw themselves and their peculiar culture as being vastly superior to all others.

A related objection is Miller’s decision to portray the Persian barbarians as grotesque monsters. In part this is a convention of superhero comics [a wholly visual medium], but it also has roots in an ancient Greek artistic tradition that equated moral virtue with physical beauty. Of course the converse also obtained. Evil was represented by physical monstrosity. And for that matter, Greeks no less than medieval Christians, saw foreign lands as the lurking place of monsters.

Others were put off by the film’s extreme, though stylized, violence. But that, too, is true to ancient Greek literary conventions. Witness these passages from Homer’s Iliad:

Now so long as the day waxed and it was still morning, their darts rained thick on one another
and the people perished, but… then the Danaans with a cry that rang through all their ranks,
broke the battalions of the enemy. Agamemnon led them on, and slew first
Bienor, a leader of his people, and afterwards his comrade and charioteer Oileus, who sprang
from his chariot and was coming full towards him; but Agamemnon struck him on the forehead
with his spear; his bronze visor was of no avail against the weapon, which pierced both bronze
and bone, so that his brains were battered in and he was killed in full fight.
Agamemnon stripped their shirts from off them and left them with their breasts all bare to lie
where they had fallen. He then went on to kill Isus and Antiphus two sons of Priam….
Agamemnon son of Atreus smote Isus in the chest above the nipple with his spear, while he
struck Antiphus hard by the ear and threw him from his chariot.
Then King Agamemnon took the two sons of Antimachus, Pisander and brave Hippolochus….
The son of Atreus sprang upon them like a lion, and the pair besought him from their chariot.
"Take us alive," they cried, "son of Atreus, and you shall receive a great ransom for us.
With such piteous words and tears did they beseech the king, but… he felled Pisander from 
his chariot to the earth, smiting him on the chest with his spear, so that he lay face uppermost
upon the ground. Hippolochus fled, but him too did Agamemnon smite; he cut off his hands
and his head--which he sent rolling in among the crowd as though it were a ball. There he let
them both lie, and wherever the ranks were thickest thither he flew, while the other Achaeans
followed. Foot soldiers drove the foot soldiers of the foe in rout before them, and slew them;
horsemen did the like by horsemen, and the thundering tramp of the horses raised a cloud of
dust from off the plain. King Agamemnon followed after, ever slaying them and cheering on
the Achaeans. As when some mighty forest is all ablaze--the eddying gusts whirl fire in all
directions till the thickets shrivel and are consumed before the blast of the flame--even so fell
the heads of the flying Trojans before Agamemnon son of Atreus, and many a noble pair of
steeds drew an empty chariot along the highways of war, for lack of drivers who were lying
on the plain, more useful now to vultures than to their wives.

And those are by no means the goriest parts of the epic. You should check out what Achilles does to his foes. Considering precedents such as these, the over-the-top posturing and violence are by no means inappropriate.

And what about those clunky boasts and one-liners mouthed by the Spartans? Those, too are taken almost verbatim from ancient texts. If you have a problem with “300” blame Herodotus, Homer, Diodorus and other ancient authors whose sensibilities shaped the legend.

What about the political implications of the film?

It is a sad commentary on our times that everything is assumed to be a political statement. In this regard I find it telling that critics have argued, depending on their political perspective, that Leonidas represents either President Bush or the Iraqi insurgents. Obviously he cannot be both, and in fact is neither. Some European and Islamic commentators have argued that the film was made as a piece of government propaganda supporting the war effort. All such assertions are ridiculous. Frank Miller’s story was crafted and published during the Clinton Presidency, long before the Iraq war began, and the U.S. government is not in the business of producing Hollywood films.

That is not to say that there are no political resonances in “300”. What is perhaps most interesting about the film is the way in which elite critics have responded to it. They hate it!!!!! And with good reason. “300” gleefully bursts the constraints of political correctness in a number of ways. It is a subversive work, defying the standards handed down by cultural elites – those who would presume to tell us what we might properly say and do and even think.

“300” should be seen as one of a rapidly growing body of subversive films challenging the standards of political correctness. Just as an earlier generation of film-makers rebelled against the strictures of bourgeois life, many film-makers today – Paul Weitz, the Farrellys, Mel Gibson, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and now Zack Snyder – are enthusiastically shredding the constraints and codes imposed by modern liberalism, and more and more they are finding an enthusiastic audience. That accounts for the overwhelmingly negative reaction of credentialed arbiters of taste.

“300” is not a very good film, although it has its moments, nor is it even a particularly important one, but it is a tremendously exhilarating transgressive experience for those who chafe restlessly under the omnipresent burden of political correctness, and that alone makes it well worth while.

Go see it!


Lileks saw it too! As usual, he gets the essential point:

[Y]ou can split hairs: the individuals were drawn from the upper classes; liberty was not extended to slaves; tyranny as defined by the upper class might have meant certain liberties for the lower classes, according to the rules of the invading empire. Maybe. Point is, the Spartans were asked to kneel, and chose not to. Every culture has a myth like this. If they don’t, they will be vassals to cultures that do.

Emphasis mine.

Read it here.


Andrew Klavan at Libertas explains the essence of the heroic ideal portrayed in 300 this way:

The film understands that we celebrate heroes because we dine on the fruits of their sacrifice. The greatest of these fruits is liberty, more precious than life itself. And when we glorify the heroes who defend our liberty with their lives, it reminds us too that we must live in responsibility to them, not only in our actions but in our philosophies as well. Every day that we preserve and cherish our freedom is a monument to them, a sign that they are not forgotten. They are never forgotten.

Go tell the Spartans.

He argues that this, more than any other factor, explains the film's popularity. This is not a message that mainstream critics are able to comprehend and why they cannot understand the appeal of 300.

I think he's probably right.

Read the whole thing here.

Tin Foil Hat Time in New Orleans

One of the more disturbing aspects of contemporary American political culture is the widespread acceptance of exotic conspiracy theories. Absurdities that would, in more rational times, be simply laughed off as idiot ravings are now taken seriously. Nowhere is this phenomenon more apparent than in the Black community. Witness:

New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin has suggested that the slow recovery and rebuilding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina -- which has prevented many black former residents from returning -- is part of a plan to change the racial makeup and political leadership of his and other cities.

"Ladies and gentlemen, what happened in New Orleans could happen anywhere," Nagin said at a dinner sponsored by the National Newspaper Publishers Association, a trade group for newspapers that target black readers. "They are studying this model of natural disasters, dispersing the community and changing the electoral process in that community."

Nagin's remarks Thursday night recalled the controversy stirred up by his prediction in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day speech in 2006 that, despite the evacuation of thousands of black people in the wake of Katrina, New Orleans would once again become a "chocolate city." The mayor later apologized for the comment, which had infuriated many whites and African Americans.

Nagin, who won reelection last May over Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, referred obliquely to the "chocolate city" comment at the dinner and suggested that his assertion that New Orleans would once again be a majority-black city had made him a political target.

"Everybody in America started to wake up and say: 'Wait a minute. What is he doing? What is he saying? We have to make sure that this man doesn't go any further,' " Nagin told a room full of black newspaper publishers and editors at the Capital Hilton.

Read it here.

This is only the latest in a long series of absurd assertions to be given wide currency in the wake of the Katrina disaster. I remember this sort of silliness from half a century ago emanating from the political Right wing. Today it is the province of the Left and has even entered the mainstream of Democratic Party discourse. And that is the major difference. The conservative wing-nuts were marginalized, the liberal loons are mainstreamed, both politically and culturally.

These are dark and troubling times indeed. Carl Sagan was right to call this a "Demon-haunted" age. What is perhaps most troubling is the fact that the lunacy is being promulgated from our centers of elite learning and political leadership.


Hat Tip to J.B.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Doughty Street Strikes Again

The latest from the gang at Doughty Street. Climate Change Hypocrites:

Jefferson and Kosciuszko

I won't be able to attend, but this Friday Gary Nash of UCLA and Graham Russell Hodges of Colgate will be in Philadelphia Friday presenting a paper to the McNeill Center for Early American Studies. The title is:

“Thomas Jefferson and Tadeuz Kosciuszko: Slavery and Freedom, Honor and Betrayal”.

Here's the abstract:
Thaddeus Kosciuszko’s return to the United States in 1797 initiates the narrative we present in this paper. Although crippled by deep wounds, Kosciuszko returned in triumph to reside in Philadelphia as a revolutionary hero. Americans applauded him for his leadership in Poland’s vain uprising from 1792-1794. Americans cherished him in the hearts and memories that linked his glory during the American Revolution with their anxieties over the conservative policies of President John Adams. Kosciuszko had more than adulation in mind; he intended to collect some $12,000 plus interest in overdue pay from the American Revolution. The American Congress, aware of his enormous popular appeal, quickly voted to allot the back pay, which, with interest rose to over $15,000.

Kosciuszko remained in Philadelphia, where he befriended Vice President Thomas Jefferson. The pair talked of Poland, France, liberty and slavery long into the night on numerous occasions in the winter of 1797-1798. International anxieties promoted secret actions. Kosciuszko was worriedabout the newly passed Alien and Sedition Acts and wanted to travel to Paris to gather support for the revitalization of Poland. Jefferson was distraught over the possibility of war between the United States and France and asked Kosciuszko to act as a covert ambassador.

What to do with Kosciuszko’s pension? He gave Jefferson power of attorney; the two men drafted an extraordinary will that gave the American Patriot the power to use the cash to purchase, manumit, educate and give land and cattle to as many enslaved people as could be afforded. Jefferson even had the right to “buy” his own enslaved people and free them. It was a solemn pact between two noble men.

Our narrative then jumps two decades to the time of Kosciuszko’s death in late 1817 and Jefferson’s realization that his promise was now due. We then discuss at length Jefferson’s decision to relinquish executorship of the estate, now worth in excess of $20,000. Nonetheless, we view Jefferson’s eventual decision to shed his oath of honor to Kosciuszko as a betrayal of a promise rich in potential to shift American attitudes about slavery, While Jefferson’s attitudes about black potentials for American citizenship have long been considered, we consider his inaction in this affair of honor deeply troubling for a man deemed America’s greatest symbol of liberty.
I have a link to the full text of Gary and Graham's paper if anyone is interested. Just drop me an e-mail. This is a fascinating view into Jefferson's character. Note that in 1797-98, as Vice-President, he is actively plotting to conduct his own foreign policy in contradiction to that of the elected President, John Adams. The point regarding Jefferson's unwillingness to use Kosciuszko's bequest as directed in his will is also important. It has often been argued that Jefferson held a deep moral objection to the institution of slavery, but that his personal financial situation and familial obligations kept him from freeing his slaves. Neither of those inhibitions, however, would pertain in the case of executing his friend's will, and his inaction is telling.

UPDATE: Jefferson's reputation takes another hit here. Prof. Bruce Ackerman claims to have definite proof that Tom rigged the disputed election of 1800 to gain the Presidency.

As sitting Vice-President, Thomas Jefferson was President of the Senate in 1801, and the Constitution assigned him the job of presiding over the final stages of the bitter presidential election of 1800. When the electoral votes came in from the states, it was up to him to open the envelopes and announce the results. There was only one problem – Jefferson himself was running for president against John Adams, and his rulings from the chair could determine whether he or Adams would be president.

Despite its potential importance, no modern scholar has studied how Jefferson exercised his powers. The Failure of the Founding Fathers provides indisputable evidence that he used his authority to count himself into the presidency.

Read the review here.

Tonya Tweaks

Remember Tonya Harding? That's right..., the American Olympian who arranged a hit on her rival Nancy Kerrigan, whose scumball husband sold sex tapes of their honeymoon, who tried for a second career as a pugilist. Check her out now. At least she's not starving, but she seems to have other problems.

Recently police received a call from the lovely Tonya.

According to a police report of the incident, Harding said four men and a woman tried to break into her car and steal it and were trying to stash rifles on the side of her property.

The police who responded to Tonya's call
described her as "very agitated" and "glancing everywhere." He noted that the former star skater was "frustrated others can't see the people she sees."
That always bothers me too, and the voices..., the voices.

Later the same morning, about 9 a.m., police received another call regarding Harding, this time from a friend who told authorities the skater was "tweaking out, seeing animals." The caller said Harding was staying with her and was not violent. She said she worried about her own children's welfare.

The deputy who responded to the call took Harding back to her home, a trailer in Clark County, and checked her house to "put her at ease".... The officer then advised Harding to see a doctor.

That's what they always tell me, too.

Read about it here.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Amish Girls Gone Wild!!!

It's Friday night at Twister's. Tina launches the evening with a tallboy of Sparks. Customers eyeball her white bonnet and shin-grazing dress as she sips from her can of malt liquor and caffeine. She's used to the gawking. Impolite scrutiny comes with being Amish.

"Everyone stares at you," she says. "It's not very fun, but I just ignore it."

Besides, Tina's on a mission to get tanked. No amount of rubbernecking can stop her.


Martha sits down with a Bud and bums a cigarette. Her cherub face is framed by a starched bonnet, her squat figure submerged in a dowdy dress. As Akon sings about slapping gyrating butts, Tina and Martha lip-synch, bouncing their bonnets to the beat.

Read the whole thing here.

Outsiders are constantly amused or shocked by the spectacle of Amish kids acting against stereotype, but as the article notes, it is not all that unusual thanks to the custom of rumspringa. [look it up]

'Beannachtam na Feile Padraig!'

Or as we say in Central Pennsylvania, You'ns have a Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!

And this is for the Breslin clan.
An Irish man has been at a pub all night drinking. The bartender finally says that the bar is closed. So your man stands up to leave and falls flat on his face. He figures he'll crawl outside and get some fresh air and maybe that will sober him up.

Once outside he stands up but again falls flat on his face. He crawls home. Reaching the door he tries to stand up, and yet again, falls flat on his face. He crawls through the door and up the stairs. When he reaches his bed he summons the last of his strength and tries one final time to stand.

It's no use. He tumbles into bed and is soon sound asleep, only to awaken the next morning to the sound of his wife standing over him shouting.

'So... you've been out drinking again!'

'How did you know?' he asks, his head hung in shame.

'The pub called-- you left your damn wheelchair down there again!'

And this is for everyone.

'Sláinte chuig na fir, agus go mairfidh na mná go deo.'

Frank and Elvis Sing

A remarkable moment in showbiz history. The passing of the torch from Frank Sinatra to Elvis Presley. The audience reaction says it all.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Continuing Collapse of Scientific Authority -- Warming Hysteria Is a Fraud

Here's another heavyweight climatologist weighing in against the Gore hysterics. He has some very interesting things to say about supposedly objective scientific authority. A few excerpts:

Hans von Storch is one of Germany's leading researchers on climate change. DER SPIEGEL spoke with him about why fears of global warming are exaggerated and and the doom-mongering tendencies of German scientists. .... SPIEGEL: Some climate protection groups and politicians are calling on Germans to spend their summer vacations in their own country in the future.

Storch: That's just another one of those typically German attempts to save the world with symbolic acts. It makes us feel like better people and morally superior to everyone else.


SPIEGEL: But many believe that the end of the world is upon us. Is the climate debate gradually becoming too hysterical?

Storch: Indeed. The fear of climatic catastrophes is an ancient one and not unlike our fear of strangers. In the past, people believed that the climate almost always changes for the worse, and only rarely for the better -- God's punishment for sinful behavior. And nowadays it's those hedonistic wastrels who pollute the air so that they can look at some pretty fish in the South Seas. It would be better if we only ever rode bikes. Oh, there's always someone wagging a finger in disapproval.


Storch: Detailed forecasts are not possible, because we don't know how emissions will in fact develop. We climate researchers can only offer possible scenarios. In other words, things could end up being completely different. But there are undoubtedly parts of the world that will benefit on balance from climate change. Those areas tend to be in the north, where it has been cold and uncomfortable in the past. But it's considered practically heretical to even raise such issues.


SPIEGEL: And what about the monster storms that will supposedly be rushing in our direction in a greenhouse climate?

Storch: A false alarm, so far, even though it's become warmer by almost one degree since the beginning of industrialization. According to the computer models, we do expect high winds in northern Germany to increase by one percent per decade. But this is such a weak phenomenon that we won't even notice it at first.

SPIEGEL: And the thousands of heat-related deaths the Kiel Institute for World Economics predicted in a recent study? Storch: Such claims are completely idiotic and dubious.


SPIEGEL: Aren't climate researchers helping fuel a state of panic with their generally bleak warnings?

Storch: Unfortunately many scientists see themselves too much as priests whose job it is to preach moralistic sermons to people. This is another legacy of the 1968 generation, which I happen to belong to myself. In fact, it would be better if we just presented the facts and scenarios dispassionately -- and then society can decide for itself what it wants to do to influence climate change.

Read the whole thing here.

This is what happens when you mix science and politics -- you corrupt both. As I have said many times, scientific authority is not objective and, while it should be heeded, it's recommendations should be balanced against other concerns, political, economic, even moral.