Wednesday, April 26, 2006

RIP Jane Jacobs, the scourge of city planners everywhere

An original mind has left us. We are now alone in the dense metropolis she championed. Jane Jacobs has died at the age of 89.

My review of her book The Nature of Economies is here.

Hat tip to Marginal Revolution.

Visitors to Cafe Hayek also have something to say on Jacobs, from a libertarian perspective.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Not going gently into the night will take a few more years

At some point, do we have a duty to die? Ron Bailey thinks we can play tennis until our bouncy new age of 150. Nonetheless, progress comes in more modest steps. The CDC reports that the American death rate has plummetted -- sending the average life expectacy to a record high of 77.9 years. This new benchmark poses all sorts of problems and the implications for Medicare and Social Security are enormous. But why spoil the good news?

The CDC link is here.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Hitchens tears another asshole for Joe Wilson; that makes it three for the Plame liar

Wow does Hitch rip into Ambassador Wilson or what?

Take that permanent smirk off your face, Ambassador (and the look of martyrdom as well, while you are at it). It seems that your contacts in the Niger Ministry of Mines the ones that your wife told the CIA made you such a good choice for the trip?didn't rate you highly enough to tell you about the Zahawie visit. It would, interestingly, have been a name you already knew. But you didn't even get as far as having to explain it away?or not until last week?because you were that far in the dark. It was left to Italian, French, and British intelligence to discover the suggestive fact and transmit it to Washington. And it's been left to someone else, most probably in the Niger embassy in Rome, to produce a much later fabrication, either for gain or in order to discredit a true story. The forged account has no bearing at all on the authentic one: It bears the same relationship as a fake $100 bill does to a genuine bill. The rip-off remake movie, "Mr. Wilson Goes to Niger," now playing to packed houses of the credulous everywhere, has precisely the same relationship to its own original.

Brookhiser offers a brief for Rumsfeld

Richard Brookhiser explains the real reason the New York Times six favorite dissenting generals are putting in the heat on Sec. Rumsfeld.

In the soft days before 9/11, Mr. Rumsfeld came to the Pentagon intent on transformation?making the military more high-tech, breaking down the barriers to inter-service cooperation. This is an old fight, for the Pentagon, like any corporation, must evolve to live; if it doesn't, it becomes General Motors. Tail-kickers like Mr. Rumsfeld naturally acquire enemies, for reasons bad (people don't like rocking the boat) and good (maybe the boat sails well as it is).

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

This is scary.

The horror of this happening to any parent is beyond the most brutal imagination. Copping a plea for a possible peek at freedom in 26 years, Natalie Rodriguez, blamed her murder of a baby on her "dysfunctional ways of living." The Suffolk DA wanted to avoid the uncertainty of a trial so accepted the plea. Life in jail may be too good for Ms. Rodriguez. Pity the poor parents.

BOSTON --Natalie Rodriguez sobbed as if even she couldn't believe what she was hearing as a prosecutor described how she snatched her friend's 9-month-old baby from his crib, slit his throat and let him bleed to death in a snowbank.

"It wasn't supposed to happen," the 23-year-old said.

But it did.

Rodriguez on Tuesday tearfully apologized as she entered a guilty plea to second-degree murder and kidnapping charges that will keep her in prison for at least another 26 years for the December 2002 slaying of Xavier Antonio Miranda.

Prosecutors said she was drunk and enraged at being kicked out of her childhood friend's apartment, and killed the baby in retaliation.

"She was there when my son was born," the boy's mother, Giselle Miranda, said Tuesday as she stared at Rodriguez from the witness stand. "It really hurts to know my only friend did this to me. It destroyed my family. It destroyed everybody."

Rodriguez, who will be eligible for parole when she is 49, blamed her actions on her "dysfunctional ways of living." She's an alcoholic with a history of mental illness and an attempted suicide, her lawyers said. She had been drinking before the slaying.

"My son was innocent," Miranda said after Rodriguez averted a first-degree murder trial by pleading guilty to lesser charges. "If she had any type of grudge she could have taken it out on me or my husband, not my son. My son had the right to live. I have no words for her."

Sunday, April 09, 2006

About that "new" gospel according to Judas

David Kopel thinks the media attention given to the discovery of the gnostic gospel according to Judas is way off base. Maybe it's all driven by the push to hype the DaVinci Code, the movie.

This Friday's coverage of the so-called "Gospel of Judas" in much of the U.S. media was appallingly stupid. The Judas gospel is interesting in its own right, but the notion that it disproves, or casts into doubt, the traditional orthodox understanding of the betrayal of Jesus is preposterous.In the March 2 issue of USA Today, ancient Egyptian documents expert James Robinson correctly predicted that the owners of the Judas Gospel manuscript would attempt to release it to coincide with the publicity build-up for "The DaVinci Code" movie, but explained that the "gospel" was part of a genre of pseudo-gospels from the second century onward, in which the authors simply made up the stories. In contrast, virtually all serious scholarship about the canonical gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) believes that they were written much closer to the events they describe--sometime in the first century a.d. The influential Christian bishop Ireneus, in his treatise Against Heresies, written in 180 a.d., denounced the Gospel of Judas as the product of a gnostic sect called the Cainites. (Book 1, ch. 31, para. 1.)The "Gospel of Judas" asserts that Jesus asked Judas to betray Jesus so that Jesus's spirit could be liberated from its earthly body.
("You will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.") This statement is a classic expression of gnosticism, and for that reason is antithetical to Christianity.

Unfortunately, the amazingly mendacious DaVinci Code presents a picture of gnosticism that is wildly false ? so it is helpful to set the record straight about what gnostics really believed.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Bravo for Eliot Cohen: Yes that "academic" paper is anti-Semitic

There's been a lot of justified fuss over a paper written by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt's "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy." Posing as a serious primer on the "influence" of American Jews on American foreign policy, the authors suggest that even to challenge such a lobby is courageous. They never ask why Americans, in principle, support the aspirations of a beleagured republic. Instead they cast aspersions in the most vile way. No wonder David Duke loved the paper. Eliot Cohen in today's Washington Post takes a sledgehammer to the moonbats from academia.

Walt and Mearsheimer contend that American national security dictates distancing ourselves from the state of Israel; that U.S. support for Israel has led to such disasters as America's status as the No. 1 target for Islamic terrorists; and that such an otherwise inexplicable departure from good sense can be accounted for only by the power of "The Lobby" (their capitalization), an overwhelmingly Jewish force abetted by some Christian evangelicals and a gentile neocon collaborator or two, who have hijacked American foreign policy and controlled it for decades.

Inept, even kooky academic work, then, but is it anti-Semitic? If by anti-Semitism one means obsessive and irrationally hostile beliefs about Jews; if one accuses them of disloyalty, subversion or treachery, of having occult powers and of participating in secret combinations that manipulate institutions and governments; if one systematically selects everything unfair, ugly or wrong about Jews as individuals or a group and equally systematically suppresses any exculpatory information -- why, yes, this paper is anti-Semitic.


Mearsheimer and Walt conceive of The Lobby as a conspiracy between the Washington Times and the New York Times, the Democratic-leaning Brookings Institution and Republican-leaning American Enterprise Institute, architects of the Oslo accords and their most vigorous opponents. In this world Douglas Feith manipulates Don Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney takes orders from Richard Perle. They dwell on public figures with Jewish names and take repeated shots at conservative Christians (acceptable subjects for prejudice in intellectual circles), but they never ask why a Sen. John McCain today or, in earlier years, a rough-hewn labor leader such as George Meany declared themselves friends of Israel.

Meanwhile, the original paper can be found here. Alan Dershowitz's response, in the form of a working paper, can be found here.

Monday, April 03, 2006

More on Easterly's new book

The Economist carries a mostly favorable review of economist and foreign-aid critic William Easterly's new book, The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good.

We still don't know if Bono has his copy.

Kevin Phillips exposed

The progression of Kevin Phillips into a disestablishmentarian teetering in the his new resting place on the moonbat edge is certainly suspect. He's loved by liberals nowadays for his tomes on the BushHitlerism. To the liberals who now praise the strategist of Nixon's "southern strategy" I say this: caveat emptor. But saying it better than I can, Jacob Weisberg scrapes the bark off the crackpot, a third-rate Bush-basher with a sense of self-importance.

The Phillips method is to begin with a bold thesis: America invaded Iraq to claims its oil. Having got your attention, he departs on a pompous, pedantic history tour: tar in the Bible, medieval mineralogy, Italian olive oil, Basque whaling, the British carve-up of the Middle East, the rise of the motor vehicle and so on. Thirty pages later, having presented no evidence and answered no objections, he restates his claim more hyperbolically: "During the first George W. Bush administration, that reliance [on motor vehicles] dictated an attempt to turn the Persian Gulf into an American filling station so as to maintain high energy consumption." At least Michael Moore tries to make us laugh when he says this.

Mr Phillips is no more coherent on the book's chief subject, "theocracy". He contends that the Republicans have become America's first openly religious party, in thrall to Christian premillennialists who think the end is nigh. Mr Bush has indeed allied himself with evangelicals. But while this strategy got him narrowly re-elected, it has not ultimately served Republicans or the religious right. Extremism on issues of church-state separation and stem-cell research has alienated secular and libertaian conservatives uncomfortable with the party's revival-tent atmosphere. Evangelical power, meanwhile, has clearly peaked. No future president is likely to kowtow to the religious right in the way Mr Bush has. Mr Phillips does not perceive any of these realities. Nor does he seem to recognise that end-times "Rapture" fantasies and the quest for oil cannot both be the hidden explanation of everything Mr Bush does.

When it comes to economics,Mr Phillips does not know what he is talking about. The tip-off comes in the section about oil, when he tries to explain that not all "proven" reserves are available. Drilling may become uneconomic, Mr Phillips notes, if more energy is required to find and extract a barrel of oil than the barrel contains - "at least until the price of oil rises". One might note that if it costs more than a barrel of oil to make a barrel of oil, a higher price for oil will not help.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

It's about time someone exposes the Ford Foundation

Every wonder why during the 1970s and 1980s, conservatives moved fast and effectively to establish their own foundations and think tanks? One reason is that so-called mainstream philanthropies like the Ford Foundation lost its moorings. The Ford Foundation was eager to bite the hand that fed it capitalism in favor of research and enterprises that were neo-socialist. Most of Henry Ford's progeny are outright dismayed at the direction fo the foundation. The Michigan AG is now forcing the Ford Foundation's hand. It's about time don't you say.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Civil liberties alert in Canada

Liberals in the U.S. always praise our neighbors to the north for their commitment to human rights. However, the Canadians always tilting toward the politically correct, care little for freedom of the press particularly if it rubs up against a human rights commission. Why does the Canadian government have to act like the United Nations?

The Western Standard, a feisty conservative libertarian publication in Western Canada is under attack. Where's their analog of the ACLU?

Hat tip to Powerline.