This short London Times story notes that over 40,000 "stolen artefacts" and manuscripts have been found in vaults, kept in safety. The so-called looting issue continues to lose standing.
David Tucker writes--not in support of Hersh--to remind us that if the administration was right in saying that there was a "massive stockpile" of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, and if no such massive stockpile is found, then the victory in Iraq will be hollow because this will mean that those weapons will have been dispersed outside Iraq. The invasion, in other words, will have made things worse, if the war in Iraq was part of the war on terror. Furthermore, Tucker claims that Hersh missed the real story about how the Defense Department read the intelligence. He claims that, if no stockpile of WMD’s or direct terrorist connections are found, then it will appear more and more to the Arab world that the only reason we went to war in Iraq was to make Israel safe. And that could have the effect of increasing terrorism against us.
Priceless is the name for this slide show. All Marines will love it, all Americans should understand it. These nine slides (taking less than a minute) are worth a lengthy op-ed! Amusing.
This article makes a good case for the administration’s contention that changing Iraq could change the Middle East. It describes the traditional preeminence of Najaf, an Iraqi city, and its clerics in the world of Shiism. The Najaf clerics do not believe that they should be involved in politics. If Najaf returns to its customary authority in the Shiite world, as the article argues it is already doing, then this will undermine Iran’s Shiite theocracy. This is especially so, the article suggests, because an Iraq where the Najaf clerics are free to speak and associate will strengthen the position of dissident clerics in Iran.
Keith Windschuttle rips apart Noam Chomsky (to put it mildy!) in The New Criterion. Long.
Congratulations to this month’s winners of a No Left Turns mug! The winners are as follows:
Craig E. Adams
That this Bennett gambling issue continues to be pressed by the media (and his political enemies) should not be surprising to us. That it opens a door to some serious conversations about virtue and vice also should’t surprise us. What I mean is that because Bennett is a good fellow, because he has taken it upon himself to speak publicly over many years about virtue and vice, because he has even exhorted us to be virtuous and chastized us (individually or as a people) when we haven’t been, this is a great occasion to have a first class national conversation about virtue, vice, liberty and what it means, in short, character. That Bennett’s situation is being taken advantage of by his political opponents (and those who prefer that there never be any public discussion of virtue and vice) is irrelevant. I believe I know enough about Bill Bennett to be able to say that he will not mind if we use this occasion to encourage that conversation and the hope that great good will come from it. One of the best pieces written on this issue is by our own David Foster. I recommend that you study it, and pass it around; indeed, comment on it. It is excellent.
I have been amazed at the Democrat attack on the Presidents appearance (flight and speech) on the USS Abraham Lincoln. Their attempt to make this into something other than what it was proves very revealing: for them everything has to be considered from the low political campaign gimmick mode; they are completely misconstruing what Bush is, how he is perceived by the American people, and what these battles against terrorists are all about. They are trying to make something that is high and noble into something low and base. Because it is revealing of their lack of seriousness about the war, it will hurt them, and hurt them badly, in my opinion. The people will trust them even less after these outburts. Here is John Podhoretzs amusing take on the issue.
Michael Fumento thinks that folks--and the media in particular--are overstating the SARS problem.
Man saves dog in Minneapolis lake. The dog was disoriented, couldn’t find the shore, while owner watched, a man walks up and jumps in, saves dog, puts his clothes on, and leaves. A professor in San Jose who has spent twenty years trying to figure out an important problem in mathematics (and has been given credit for doing so) now says he made a mistake. A soccer shirt and shoes are declared national monuments in Uruguay. A 102 year old woman claims she is an "e-mailaholic."
Villagers in southern Taiwan are strapping bras to their faces to guard against SARS due to shortage of facial masks. Woman creates computer virus as a statement against sexism; not enough worms have been created by women, we can do it too! Naked man stuck in an airvent for two days, by firefighters. Says he can explain. A woman in Glasgow, Scotland, insists on parking illegally nearly every day. She has accumulated fines worth $45,000, and has paid $19,300 of it. She keeps doing it, and is fined $80 each time. New cookbook shows how to cook and serve endangered species. Environmentalists are outraged, want book banned. They are not interested in snail darter kebabs, or raspberry glazed spotted owl. Man kills venomous snake in Michigan to protect children is convicted of "killing a protected reptile without a state permit." The maximum sentence is 90 days and a $500 fine. The criminal said, "I am stunned that the snake had more rights than a human being."
In other environmental news, a federal judge has ruled that the Bush administrations plan to save endangered salmon in the Pacific Northwest is insufficient, and that the government may need to reconsider removing the huge dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers. To be sure, those dams do harm salmon, and probably should come down--if we are serious about saving salmon. Id like to see it put to an advisory vote in Oregon and Washington: I have little doubt how those two "green" states would vote. Theyd vote to keep their cheap hydro power, and the salmon be damned, so to speak.
This episode raises another interesting point. Environmentalists always like to attack "corporate polluters" for our environmental problems. But it wasnt a corporation that built those huge dams on the Columbia and Snake--it was FDRs New Deal. Likewise, the chief culprit in the ecological ruin of the Florida Everglades was the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Nobody can trash the environment like the government can. But you dont hear this very often from the greens, who desire above all else more government power. It would be "off message."
Two years ago the Sacramento Bee did a five-part series that smacked the hell out of environmental organizations, especially the Sierra Club. (The series is still available online here.) Now the Washington Post has taken up the attack, with a devastating three-part series this week attacking the Nature Conservancy. "Big Green: Inside the Nature Conservancy" makes out the group to be the environmental equivalent of Enron, including self-dealing and potential tax fraud.
Now, I never mind seeing an environmental group get smacked around in the media, and while I think the Nature Conservancy richly deserves this hit, it is also the case that TNC has always been regarded as the "right wing" of the environmental movement, has been friendly to business, and believes in buying land for preservation rather than having it regulated away from people. This story, therefore, is going to strengthen the hand of the more radical environmental groups, which is of course most everyone else.
Heres yet another look at Bill Bennetts gambling problem from the perspective of James McManus, a writer who just published a best-selling book on the World Series of Poker. (How he came to write that story is intriguing in its own right: he took his $10,000 advance from the Atlantic Monthly and bought himself into the world-renowned game and did well enough to give a first-hand account of the lucrative event.) McManus, author of Positively Fifth Street: Murderers, Cheetahs and Binions World Series of Poker, writes in a May 6 NYT op-ed, "Virtues, Values and Vegas," that Bennetts so-called gambling woes are none of the publics business. He raises the ante, ha ha, by saying Bennett was not enough of a gambler, but Ill let those interested read the article themselves.
I disagree on both counts, but found the op-ed thought-provoking enough--especially the political connection he makes near the end--to bring to your attention.
Mark Helprin wrote what I thought was a surprising piece for the May 5 issue of National Review (not on line). Although the article is worth reading (I always learn something from him), Mac Owens takes issue with him on two important points: Owens says, "I can only conclude that he [Helprin] doesn’t really believe that 1) wars should be subject to political judgments, a conclusion that would surprise Carl von Clausewitz; and 2) war has changed since 1945." I agree with Owens reading of Helprin.
Here is Julie Ann Ponzis take on the Bennett matter. Read the whole thing, but here is how she begins:
"It is a particularly disgusting habit of the human mind that propels it to dismiss virtue because of some perceived hypocrisy on the part of virtue’s defenders. What is worse is the childish delight some characters seem to take in the public unveiling of such hypocrisy. With his recent admission of a gambling problem, former Secretary of Education and Drug Czar, William Bennett, has provided every unthinking liberal wag the opportunity to indulge their greatest fantasy: the public whipping of virtue and her defenders (particularly conservative ones) as irrelevant, impossible and hypocritical.
Ignoring any sense of perspective, the spectacle has led some critics—still smarting from the conservative denunciation of Bill Clinton’s foibles—to proclaim that this is a case of six of one and a half dozen of another. On the other hand, conservative defenders of Bennett, in their rush to defend him, have argued that his vice is different not only in scale but in kind and that it is purely a matter between him, his wife, and his accountant. Both go too far in their respective directions."
In the meantime AP is reporting that Stephen Cambone, the Under Secretary for Intelligence (both Nous and information gathering!), has reported on the first evidence of WMD, the mobile bioweapons lab that has been found. Cambone said in part this:
"While some of the equipment on the trailer could have been used for purposes other than biological weapons agent production, U.S. and U.K. technical experts have concluded that the unit does not appear to perform any function beyond what the defector said it was for, which is the production of biological agents." Read the whole thing. Note also in the story that General Wallace is saying that there is plenty of documentary evidence suggesting that Iraq had an active program for WMD. I can feel Hersh’s heart sinking. Can a reporter by fired because he is always wrong? Or, does he have tenure?
This is Seymour Hersh’s latest New Yorker piece. It is worth reading for a number of reasons, not the least of which, as Jack Shafer at Slate points out, is because Hersh has always been wrong (do follow Shafer’s links to other errors of Hersh):
"At almost every critical turn since the events of 9/11, Hersh has leapt to the front of the editorial pack with a bracing, well-researched, and controversial explication of the war on terror. And almost every time, Hersh’s predictive take on the course of events has been wrong. Boneheaded-dumb wrong."
What we are witnessing here is Hersh becoming a pro-establishment martinet who not only is wrong, but is finding Straussian conspiracies (read Neoconservatives in the daily left wing and/or establishment press) in everything and everyone from Wolfowitz to Kristol to Cambone. Those who have lost all the arguments are really bitter (and mean) and the name calling and the gall will continue. It is worth reading this latest attempt by Hersh, in large measure to see how quickly he will be proven wrong. As Shafer puts it, "If Hersh’s interpretive/predictive streak holds, we should expect to find proof of WMD and a direct link between Iraq and al-Qaida within the next two weeks." Also see some fine writing on Hersh’s vitriol and the media’s obsession in trying to make Strauss so influential in matters of intelligence (no, not Nous) from Nicholas Antongiavanni at The Remedy (and Masugi below that). There will be more on these matters, count on it.
Canadian soldiers are back in Afghanistan, but this time, they dont have any weapons to help protect them. In Ottawas rush to put Canadian troops on the ground, 25 elite Canadian soldiers arrived in Afghanistan only to find that they are not allowed to carry guns. What makes the situation particularly embarrassing is that the troops have been assigned German bodyguards to protect them. A Global National exclusive report."
The Ashbrook Center and Ashland Universitys Department of History and Political Science are cosponsoring a conference entitled "The Evolution of Modern American Conservatism." The event will be held at the Ashbrook Center on Saturday, 11 October 2003. Some of the speakers that will be appearing include Alan Brinkley, Rick Perlstein, and veteran No-Left-Turner Steven Hayward.
Full details on the conference are available here.
In the midst of all the chuckling over Bill Bennetts gambling problem, I wonder if anyone has given any thought to what we should expect of a society in which hypocrisy (or, at least, perceived hypocrisy) is the deadliest, and least forgivable sin.
Those who seem to be deriving the most pleasure from the revelations about Bennett are the libertines, overjoyed to have found a moral flaw in someone who shamed them. If Bennett is laid low by this, who is capable of stepping forward to fill his shoes? Indeed, if we only permit the morally pure to speak out in favor of virtue, can it be long before the concept of virtue is itself forgotten?
Eric Claeys points to the Barone article below (which I recommend you read). I agree with Eric that Barone’s point is true; we have all seen the soft 18 year olds turn into hard 30 year olds. How this happens is most certainly not understood by, for example, Europeans, where the softness continues until death.
But I wanted to say something about Eric’s point on how the educational system (below college) squanders a precious opportunity to really educate and to turn out citizens. I am certainly aware of this flaw. Most of my students are real native Americans (born in the US), and about age 18 when I get them, and almost none of them have much of a civic education when they get to me. (This is not to say that they are not patriotic in the ordinary sense of that term.) In other words, they don’t know much about the country, neither it’s principles nor its institutions, nor its great statesmen. They may have some strong views or passions, but it is not yet a civic or political perspective. They don’t know what their country is and why it is good.
So this is what I have to do to start their education in these matters. I tell them some simple truths about their country and themselves. I tell them they are the most fortunate of the earth, among the blessed of all times and places. I tell them this as an obvious and incontrovertible thing. And their great good fortune, their blessing, lies in the country into which they were born. I tell them the simple large truth, that their country, the United States of America, happens to be today the most powerful, most prosperous, most free, and most just country on earth. I tell them how and why this is so, that is, I teach them about the principles from which these blessings of liberty flow. I invite them to consider whether they can hope to have any greater honor than to pass on undiminished to their children and grandchildren this great inheritance of freedom. And then we talk for a few years about how they might best go about doing that.
Now, of course, this means that they get to know (and befriend, even) the Founders and Lincoln and the other worthies. They know the things for which they stood, their arguments with one another, the decisions that were made and why they were made, how the progressives changed the terms of the discussion, and what that means. In short they begin to get a fine civic (and liberal) education. Now this could all be done (and should be done) in high schools, of course. But it isn’t. So we start at age 18, and here at the Ashbrook Center we also try to have an effect on high school teachers by running them through some very intensive seminars on these matters (just the sort that they should have had in college, but, generally, did not). We try to make up for times and opportunities lost by trying to resurrect a college education that, if properly understood, is an old-fashioned high school education. And then, as Barone says, the competative nature of the society does the rest by demanding from them those virtues necessary to prosper in a free society. And, over time, they become hard, and tough, and smart, and optimistic. They work hard, play hard, and lough aloud. And the world is in awe of them, these Americans.
Michael Barone has posted an interesting piece on US News & World Reports website about the state of American education. In his view, even though most American students dont learn anything in grade school or high school, college and on-the-job training more than make up for it. So, even though American 18-year-olds are pretty deficient, American 30-year-olds are as productive as you can find anywhere in the world.
I have a few doubts about Barones thesis, but Im posting the piece to provoke some discussion on one question. Barone makes a dubious assumption that a lot of other commentators make: Since when is the overriding purpose of grade and high school educations to train students to be good workers in our economy? Why shouldnt the main goal be to produce thoughtful, loyal, and spirited citizens? Even assuming colleges and large companies can turn pampered 20-year-olds into useful workers, hasnt the educational system still squandered a precious opportunity?
Given the penchant for naming airport terminals, bridges, and other public works after political figures, I always thought it would be fitting, during the Clinton years, to name a sewage treatment plant after Sid Blumenthal, otherwise known as "Sid Vicious."
Now comes news that his book on Clinton, The Clinton Wars, is soon to arrive in bookstores. According to a little squib in todays Washington Times, it includes gems such as:
"Clinton was a man who came from nowhere; overcame all obstacles by virtue of his own intelligence, skill, and attractiveness; and then, having achieved his goal, gave in to weakness. He did not give in to it for money, power, status, or fame. He did not do it out of meanspiritedness, resentment, or cruelty. What he did was not a crime. It was part of his personality that got him to the White House, with his need for affirmation, attention, and affection."
With treacle like this, Blumenthal might have a future in journalism, perhaps with the Washington Post Style page.
The Washington Times has a bombshell banner headline this morning: "France gave passports to help Iraqis escape". The intrepid Bill Gertz is on the story, which says the French gave EU passports that allow Iraqis to escape to all parts of Europe.
This CNN story on the return of the Soyuz spacecraft is interesting. Note that for decades Russian cosmonauts have been carrying a sawed off shotgun in the capsule, just in case they land off-course and are stranded in an area with dangerous animals.
The Arizona Republic reports that there is a growing number of first, second, and third generation Latinos who only speak English. This is causing problems for some professors of Hispanic Studies. Que lastima!
Simon Baron-Cohen is the director of the autism Research Centre, Cambridge University. In this long op-ed he explains (by way of trying to understand autism) the differences between the male and female brain. He argues that that people with autism may have an extreme of the male brain, "good at systematising, very bad at empathising." Very interesting article, and quite clear.
It seems as though Smith College has some great big issues to deal with. It is a girls school, so you would think that the gender pronoun problem does not arise; wrong. Also, there is this: what if a young lady has a sex-change, can the new gent still stay at the school? These transgender issues are becoming tough. Ah, read and ponder some ridiculous things! Oh Lord, what fools these mortals be...
USA Today (Sunday, on line) says that Bill Bennetts wife says that he hasnt lost millions and he is "not addicted" to gambling. But, because she is so irritated by the stories, "she said her husband may have pulled his last slot-machine lever. Hes never going again, she said." I have never met Bills wife, but I am betting that she is right. He has probably pulled his last lever.
I agree with Hayward below ("The Bennett Affair"): He should address this and should do it quickly, for all the reasons that Hayward lays out. Maybe this brief story on what his wife had to say about it (the fact that she was willing to be quoted is interesting) is the start of him coming clean.
Yet, it must be said that most of this story is not new. Bennett has been known to like gambling, and stories (as I recollect) have been run on this passion of his. So we should not be surprised that the same people who didnt think Clintons odd habits (addictions?) were worthy of the name of vice are now going after Bennett; so I can see why folks would be inclined to defend him. I dont think a defense is necessary. He should explain himself, thats all. He owes his many friends and supporters that. And even if he gambled away millions (assuming it wasnt bread money), I for one am not sending him to I forget which Circle of Hell. I dont gamble; except for an occasional poker game with friends in graduate school, but that really wasnt gambling. They were such poor poker players that there wasnt any chance involved: I never lost! By the way, I dont like the word addiction, it always has a "physical" connotation to it; passion, or habit, is better in part because it is deeper, it is of the soul, not the body, hence harder to break; I always get the sense that if something is an addiction, people think there is a chemical imbalance involved and if you just give the person the right medicine (read another chemical) it will go away. Not so with a deep habit or a passion, when a vice, it is much harder to break.
Let me tell you a quick story about Bennett. It was 1986 and I had just been appointed to the Education Department (by Bennett) as Director of International Education. One of my first important meetings was with four presidents of four of the most prestigious universities in the country (from both coasts). I wont name them. They spent an hour and a half over dinner talking about the Secretary of Education (who held both a PhD and a law degree) as if he were a hick with only a kindergarten education. They were explicit in saying that they took nothing he said about education (and higher education especially) seriously. Bennett was an idiot and a fool and they were going to break him. I was--in my naivete--shocked by this attitude. I couldnt believe that four such distinguished and accomplished men could talk this way about my boss, the Secretary of Education; never mind the imprudence of speaking so boldly in front of me who, they well knew, had just been appointed by Bennett. From their point of view I was a no-body, might as well have been a spot on the table cloth. But what shocked me above all else is the last thing they said about Bennett before leaving the table: One of them said that he had seen Bennett at a gas station, putting gas in his old and tacky Toyota; he was putting the gas in himself, didnt even have an attendant do it. How low, how tacky. And you should have seen that car, an old run-down, rusty thing. He should be ashamed of himself, one of them said. I had put up with a lot during the dinner, but this was the final straw. I barked at them that Bennett didnt have money, hed been a student and an academic his whole life, and that this was no crime or vice. Not everyone could have the income of the president of Stanford, I said. Well, since then Bill has made a lot of money. And if he has blown a lot of it through gambling--as long as it isnt milk money--thats his business and it isnt a crime (moral or otherwise), although it is at best foolish. It would have been much worse if he were to have given gifts to one of these univesities, at least one of which was an alma mater. Still, he ought to respond to the stories; it could encourage a conversation on habits, vices and virtues.
As if the Republican rout on foreign and defense policy werent enough, there are fresh signs that liberals are cracking up on the domestic front as well. In recent days Washington DC Mayor Anthony Williams has come out in favor of school vouchers for DC public schools. (I have long predicted that the dam would start to break when some prominent Democrats broke with the teachers union.)
For this tergiversation, Courtland Milloy, one of the Washington Posts race-baiting thugs it calls a columnist, has blasted Williams as a Republican in Democratic clothing. Worth reading as evidence that there arent any serious arguments to be made against vouchers any more.
Todays New York Times has fingered the key node of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy (VRWC). The key node is . . . drum roll please. . . Leo Strauss. Surprise, surprise.
The author, James Atlas, does a less bad job than other writers (notably the Times Brent Staples back in 1995) in characterizing Strauss. (If memory serves, it was a positive Times review by Atlas that helped launch Blooms Closing of the American Mind toward the best-seller list back in 1987.) But there are the usual crudities and mis-identifications in the piece. It is worth reading for its unintentional hilarity.
There is a photo of Harry and Marjorie Jaffa in their tandem bike from 1970 on the jump page (not avilable online however); apparently a file photo from a 1973 Times story on Strauss.
In other Times news, there is a terrific recipe for braised pork shoulder in the magazine this week.
One little tidbit stands out deep in the Washington Post story today about the Democrats debate in South Carolina last night. It seems Bush has a commanding lead in polls over every Democrat in the current field, but a much smaller lead over a generic Democrat. The large polling gap between a generic Democrat an the real candidates is a measure of how weak the Democratic field is right now.
Look for Hillary to take a serious look at jumping in the race late in the year if the economy and Bush look weak.