Saturday, September 25, 2004

Paul Berman, honest liberal, on the cult of Che'

Paul Berman rattles the cult of Che.

It is amazing the the so-called "beautiful people" of Sundance would ignore the horrors Che helped to midwife. But as usual "no enemies on the left."

I wonder if people who stand up to cheer a hagiography of Che Guevara, as the Sundance audience did, will ever give a damn about the oppressed people of Cuba—will ever lift a finger on behalf of the Cuban liberals and dissidents. It's easy in the world of film to make a movie about Che, but who among that cheering audience is going to make a movie about Raúl Rivero?

So much for multilateralism; So much for the U.N.

Sen. John Kerry, now making the war in Iraq the center of this campaign, says a lot of things about the virtues of multilaterialism. He says he would do more to get our true allies on board (the French) in those prickly places like Iraq while ignoring or belittling the real allies (Poland and Australia) with boots on the ground.

The situation in Sudan where Islamists are murdering Christians is a good example why the Bush administration has a stronger hand when it comes to testing the virtues of the United Nations, the most overrated institution ever established. For the Sudan, a Kerry administration would clearly be acquiescent to the sensibility of the lowest common denominator that is the UN today. Would Kerry be so sure after the latest nuance of declaring the killing in Darfur as a genocide?

David Brooks flushes out the pitfalls of going to the U.N. for just about anything. As if we hadn't learned much from Bosnia and Rwanda. It proves that as the U.N. fiddles, real people die.

The United States said the killing in Darfur was indeed genocide, the Europeans weren't so sure, and the Arab League said definitely not, and hairs were split and legalisms were parsed, and the debate over how many corpses you can fit on the head of a pin proceeded in stentorian tones while the mass extermination of human beings continued at a pace that may or may not rise to the level of genocide.

For people are still starving and perishing in Darfur.

But the multilateral process moved along in its dignified way. The U.N. general secretary was making preparations to set up a commission. Preliminary U.N. resolutions were passed, and the mass murderers were told they should stop
- often in frosty tones. The world community - well skilled in the art of expressing disapproval, having expressed fusillades of disapproval over Rwanda, the Congo, the Balkans, Iraq, etc. - expressed its disapproval.

And, meanwhile, 1.2 million were driven from their homes in Darfur.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

No exit: The pro-choicers want to take choice out of the abortion debate

Remember the smug and smarmy bumper sticker that went something like this: If you are against abortion then don't have one! Sounds good. But a recent provision that made its way out of the House of Representatives last week would prohibit the government from requiring any institutions or health care professionals to provide abortions. What if you recognize that abortion is legal but morally questionable and refuse to provide or recommend one? The House wants to protect those health care providers of conscience from the indignity of acting against one's own beliefs.

This latest "'assault on reproductive rights" naturally alarms the National Abortion Rights Action League and assorted pro-abortion activists. But some clear thinking needs to be brought to bear on this debate. (The inclusion of pharmacists in this bill, I concede, is problematic).

The debate now treading on whether abortion is part of a"right to health care" and drained of any moral sentiment surely has "ethical" implications. If abortion is available and the market for them is competitive why can't some providers opt out?

LibertyCenter points out this provision is worth watching only to see how "rights" evolve.

It will be interesting to see -- if the bill becomes law -- how the pro-murder forces argue against it in court, as surely they will. My guess is that they'll try to convert the "negative right" recognized in Roe v. Wade (the government can't prevent abortion) into a "positive right" (medical institutions must provide abortions, even if they don't want to).
I don't subscribe to the harsh "pro-murder" characterization. However, this debate will be a problem for liberals who have posited a right to abortion within a libertarian context, for example "keeping government out of our bedrooms." Fair enough even though I am suspect of post-modern liberal reasoning. But now liberalism must answer to its egalitarian side and against whatever remains of its libertarian creed - forcing, let's say a Catholic hospital, into performing abortions. The bumper sticker for this side might operate on this idea: If you want an abortion don't force me to give you one -- go elsewhere

All of this coercive inclination from the pro-abortion lobby, of course, is in the name of the greater good of "access to health care." Watch this one closely.

The King of the Geeks tracks a visual history of spam

He is, to one observer. the "king of all geeks" and his latest effort may indeed be very regal. Microsoft employee Raymond Chen has saved every spam e-mail since 1997 probably to the great dismay of his IT staff. His masterly compilation of the digital bile that clogs the internet is presented here with all the gusto of a man who perhaps has too much time on his hands. Does Chen have a good hypothesis about why spam appears to, by his measure, dropped off? Not really. A downward trend in early 2004 was initially thought to be attributed to the CAN-SPAM act. But Chen doesn't think so. "I don't buy this theory since there was no significant corresponding lull at my other email account, and follow-up reports indicate that CAN-SPAM was widely disregarded." He may be right. The CAN-SPAM Act is a toothless tiger and there's no reason to believe that filtering has dramatically improved. Meanwhile, I wonder what Edward Tufte thinks of Chen's graphic design.

Friday, September 17, 2004

The Big Dig as the Big Lie

I will have more to say on the Big Dig, an over-rated, boondoggle in a later post. When Barney Frank joked that it would have been cheaper to raise the city of Boston than to depress the I-93 elevated highway, he wasn't kidding. See yesterday's Herald. What the city's business, media, urban planning and union elites have foisted upon this city is a disgrace. Will we ever learn?

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Blog fog

Why are we compelled to write things down? Why are we inclined to share our thoughts with readers, some of whom will read your scattershot observations. According to Futurepundit two psychologists compared people who kept diaries with a group of individuals who did not. The major finding:

Statistically, the diarists scored much worse on health measures than the non-diarists. And worst affected of all were those who had written about trauma.
“They were most susceptible to headaches and the like,� says Duncan.

What does this mean for bloggers, and particularly hysterical ones?

Just thinking.

Pandering Teresa joins the Blame Bush Brigade

Since George Bush speaks Spanish better than he does English, the Democrats see a threat to one of their vulnerable constituencies. Enter Teresa Heinz Kerry, outspoken as always, proving again that she's a liability.

Monday, September 13, 2004

The "Smart Set" weighs in with cash for Kerry

Surprise! Ivy League academia supports John Kerry! At Princeton they apparently like to rub it in. Money quote:

The University's results were in step with those of Yale and Harvard, both of which had 95 percent of donations going to Kerry. Harvard employees donated $213,045 to Kerry, representing the largest amount given by the employees of any institution or company, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

To computer science professor Andrew Appel, who has given $4,000 to Kerry this year, the imbalance is not unexpected.

"Does it surprise me that smart people should be supporting Kerry?" Appel said. "No."

Somehow Dummies for Bush may have the last laugh!

Saturday, September 11, 2004

A thought about September 11

Each generation has its own Pearl Harbor. My generation has September 11, 2001, its own day of infamy. It now appears tired and worn to ruminate on how 9/11 "has changed one's life." I have only this to offer. For years I enjoyed walking around unfettered in the Massachusetts State House, one of my favorite buildings. It is an architectural gem.

In the tranquil time before the catastrophe, you could find all kinds of access to the building including the wonderful grand stair case on Beacon Street and under the arch way from Mt. Vernon. There is a good working entrance on the side, on Bowdoin Street, nondescript but busy. It is where the workers, lobbyists and advocates would file in without much notice.

Post 9/11 everything is remarkably different. Metal detectors are the norm. State Police are more prominent. It takes more time to get through when crowds swell for public hearings particuarly at budget time. For years, I would take daily trips to the State House as part of a routine. These excursions were a metaphorical "finger through the dust" where I would pick up he scuttlebutt of the day on my way to the State House News Service. But no more; I've actually cut back on my visits to no more than twice a week. This contact with my government has been diminished. Many people have died for free and open government and something as deceptively trivial as showing up at the State House has taken on greater significance.

Ironically at the point when I would like to answer the government's call for the defense of the homeland, 9/11 has broken the bond between government and myself. Before I walk through those detectors, I recognize that government sees me not as a citizen per se but as a suspect. The open nature of a republic, where one could freely roam the halls of government, be it city or state, has come to an end. This is a big loss.

Friday, September 10, 2004

What it takes!

I'm finally realizing that blogging is a near full time enterprise. I'm in awe of people who can do it everyday and still write for a living. All I can say is that Andrew Sullivan is one prolific individual. I guess when I grow up I want to be like Andrew Sullivan!

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

De Borchgrave on the intellectual father of antiglobalist Islam

Arnaud de Borchgrave thinks Tariq Ramadan's duplicity is worth watching. The founder of the Muslim Brotherhood enjoys the freedom of the West as Europe's leading Islamist intellectual while seeking to undermine it. Of course there's enough in Ramadan's body of work to suggest that he doesn't believe in pluralism. This antiestablishmentarianism is worth a lecture or two at Notre Dame, so says the Left. Should the Department of Homeland Security let him in? Is this a question of intellectual freedom?

Monday, September 06, 2004

More proof you cannot get complete agreement from economists

The world is in good economic shape. So say the world's foremost economic thinkers. But which nations are doing better than others? Only two conomists maintain the U.S. is the foremost economy in the world. See "Good News for the Globe: Nobel Winners in Economics Are Upbeat About the Future As China and India Surge" by David Wessel and Marcus Walker of the Wall Street Journal.

Interesting quote from one of my favorite economists James Buchanan, who when asked "among other thing which counntry in the world comes closest to getting economic policy right" these days, replied. "I consider the questions to be fatuous and not worthy of serious reflection."

Bill Safire assesses the President's new fortunes

Mark me down as one of those who believe the press will soon be buying into a new template: that Kerry has nothing to worry about trailing as he does at this point -- he's shown to be a great closer. Polipundit looks beyond the Kerry as Mariano Rivera motif the Democrat-friendly media expects to burnish in the coming weeks. He makes a few good points.

But what would this final stretch look like? Any turnaround would either be a Bush blunder of massive scale or hoping for bad economic news. The latter puts Kerry in a strange position. The most estimable William Safire who after sizing up the Bush Push sees the race this way:

We can be certain that bad economic news, if it comes, will hurt Bush. When the
recovery stuttered this summer and Kerry's political fortunes rose, we had a
brief "Kerry market" - stocks declined sharply at the prospect of dividend and
capital-gains tax increases, recovering along with Bush's recent comeback. If
the figures near election time are not good, a worried market will drop as
Kerry's stock rises, accentuating investor gloom. Public pessimism cheers the

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Taking in al-Rashed, sees an opening

Perry de Havilland on Abdel Rahman al-Rashed's "cri de coeur." Rahman is a news editor and the general manager of Al- Arabiya news channel. Taking a swipe at the tired, leftwing analysis, de Havilland offers the following:

I can only hope this sort of discussion sweeps across the Islamic world. Western civilisation has so much introspection going on that some commentators regularly vanish up their own arses during absurd Sartre-esque displays of posturing left wing 'analysis' of bourgeois capitalism or the 'root causes' of why some people actually set out to slaughter other people's children. What we really need is muslims doing a great deal more public soul searching with frank discussions of modern terrorism: without recourse to the word 'but'...

Vanishing up their arses indeed!

Required Reading: Mark Steyn on Beslan

The title of Mark Steyn's latest sums up the butchery in Beslan. No other word for it but slaughter

In the wake of Beslan, much-needed Arab self-criticism arrives

No matter how muted mainstream Arab Islamists have been in the past, this can't but help to isolate those who have hijacked in the name of Allah! MSNBC carries this dispatch.

Why the Russians must join the U.S. global war on terrorism

After the Persian Gulf War in 1991, some commentators noted that the Soviet military stood in awe - and perhaps fear -- at the great American arsenal that forced Saddam out of Kuwait. I'm reminded of this insightful piece of history when reading about what the Belmont Club has to say about the Russian tragedy in Beslan. The lack of power options available to President Putin means that he must engage in a bloodier -perhaps more indiscriminate war against terror.

But no one who has seen the rags and hodgepodge of equipment issued to the Russian Special forces can entertain any illusion that Vladimir Putin can go around launching raids with hi-tech helicopters, or follow around perps with robotic drones before firing, or use satellite-guided bombs to wipe out enemy safe houses that have been seeded with RFID chips. Nor will those detained by Russia gain weight the way detainees have done at the "inhuman" Gitmo prison. That's an American way of war which even Europeans can only regard with envy. The poor must respond with less. When the Nepalese saw the video of their 12 compatriots executed by terrorists in Iraq, they did what you could do with a box of matches: they burned the mosque in Kathmandu. To paraphrase Crosby, Stills and Nash, 'if you can't hit the one you should then hit the one you're with'.

While Russia can do better than a box of matches, the reality is that its poverty and low-tech force structure will make any response that Putin may choose a brutal and largely indiscriminate affair unless it is subsumed into the larger American-led Global War on Terror. The real price of the European vacation from history is its abandonment of the first principle of civilization. Unless there is common justice, there will be vigilante justice.

Very well-said.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Who reads the Boston Phoenix's weekly editorial anyway?

Editorial writers like to think themselves as the fulcrum of the marketplace of ideas. Many editorial writers pretentiously think they can shape public opinion, and perhaps among the elites they do. For those running for political office, an increasingly insular world, an endorsement from the Boston Globe, for example, provides some sort of cache that I could never really understand.

In Boston you have to read the Boston Herald to find common sense editorials and not because they are perceptively right-of-center. Herald editorials are written without any air of superiority or sophistication. In the Globe you can measure the high decibels of Bush-hatred by the nearly mindless letter-to-the-editor writers operate in the fingernails-against-the-chalkboard feedback loop. The bottom line is that Globe writes its editorials for this utopian bunch. Let's put it this way, the Boston Herald is for people who would enjoy sitting down with George Bush for a beer (even the nonalcoholic variety.) The Boston Globe is for people who actually think the likes of John Kerry and Al Gore, for example, are exceedingly charismatic and are flummoxed that you don't think the same way.

If you think the editorials in the Boston Globe are insipid and inane, try reading the weekly Boston Phoenix editorial. I can't imagine anyone of substance who takes this tendentious material seriously. The Boston Phoenix is sometimes actually worth reading. Dan Kennedy is usually compelling and insightful about the inside baseball of Boston media. And to its credit. the Phoenix's Kristen Lombardi broke the Catholic Church abuse scandal long before the saints at Morrissey Blvd and without the benefit of a Spotlight team.

Otherwise in terms of politics and journalism, the Boston Phoenix is redundantly banal. Why does the city need another liberal journal of opinion and in an age where fewer people are reading print journalism. In the world of editorial opinion, Feenix is a pretender to the throne. In the liberal galaxy where the "Feenix" opines, hate is only on the right, and never, never on the left. Obviously in castigating the Bushies and the GOP, the Phoenix this week saw a lot of love out there in the streets of New York. If you so care to tread, here's Phoenix not exactly rising out of the ashes of glory in "Debasing our culture: The only way out from underneath the Bush administration’s lies, obfuscation, and hate is to vote in November."

We are living in dangerous times. The mainstream press is all too willing to investigate the baseless, scurrilous charges of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which lends dignity to Republican lies and distortions. From the moment the first Swift Boat charge was lobbed, the media should have noted the connections between Bush aide Karl Rove and the Swift Boat group’s backers, and noted that this was the third time Bush and/or his supporters have smeared a Vietnam veteran during a campaign...

It’s no wonder the president was able to get away with lying to bring to the country to war. It’s no wonder that GOP radicals have been able to pass tax cut after tax cut after tax cut to the near-exclusive benefit of the wealthiest two percent of the country (thus triggering ruinous budget deficits). It’s no wonder that social policy in this country has been reduced to denouncing gay men and lesbians as the root cause of all that ails us. And it’s no wonder that Bush stands poised to steal another election thanks to our failure to enact meaningful voting reform in the wake of the 2000 Florida debacle...

The growing sentiment among the liberal smart set is a worrisome acknowlegement GOP ran a successful convention in hostile territory. And as one moves farther away from that the crossdressing event of the year known as the DNC that papered over its far-left delegation with tough talk looks awfully small in the rear view mirror. Portraying the Democrats as tough on terrorism makes for good fiction but little else. But coming around to the idea that John Kerry is a weak candidate is unhinging the liberals. Hatred of the President, does not make for good electoral strategy.

Obviously the Phoenix chooses to ignore the repulsive and now discredited Michael Moore bunkmate to Friend of North Korea Jimmy Carter, most of Hollywood gliterati, the lack of scrutiny to DNC clowns such as Al Sharpton.

On the perplexing matter of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth can someone at the Phoenix answer this question: Can all of the nearly 300 Vietnam Veterans be wrong? And pray tell, my dear anonymous Boston Phoenix editorial writer, what do you think about the abusive 527s of which nearly 90 percent a solidly liberal and connected to the Kerry campaign. Do Harold Ickes and Jim Jordan ring a bell. Nary a comment here lest we upset the phonies at, another core Phoenix constituency I suppose. By the way, wasn't the Feenix into once into campaign finance reform?

Naturally each week the Phoenix plays to its audience before said audience thumbs its way to the arts section. It is after all an "activist" news weekly. But does it have to do it with cliches?

There is only one way to end this disgrace: vote. You have until 20 days
before the November 2 presidential election to register to vote. Visit
for information on how to register if you haven’t already. More than at any
other time in recent history, this election matters.

Yes, of course, this election matters, in these "dangerous times," but not for the reasons liberals like to believe.

Is this the October Surprise?

The Associated Press has this very, very interesting story.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - The United States and its allies have moved closer to capturing Osama bin Laden in the last two months, a top U.S. counterterrorism official said in a television interview broadcast Saturday.

"If he has a watch, he should be looking at it because the clock is ticking. He will be caught," Joseph Cofer Black, the U.S. State Department coordinator for counterterrorism, told private Geo television network.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Zell Miller speaks plainly but eloquently for the Bush Democrats

Zell Miller says it best about the reckless voting record of the most liberal Senator from Massachusetts. Key quote from very quotable speech.

No one should dare to even think about being the Commander in Chief of this country if he doesn't believe with all his heart that our soldiers are liberators abroad and defenders of freedom at home.

But don't waste your breath telling that to the leaders of my party today. In their warped way of thinking America is the problem, not the solution.