Jacob T. Levy writes a thoughtful piece on Malawi, a semi-democratic multi-ethnic country that seems to function remarkably well a decade after the fall of the dictatorship. This isnt common in Africa. Levy wants to know why. Thoughtful. Here is the CIA World Factbook on Malawi to get your bearings.
I think this is priceless from James Taranto. (go to Taranto to get to the sites)
Left Coast Quagmire:
California is a desert land roughly the size of Iraq. It is also an object lesson in the dangers of trying to impose democracy in a culture that is not ready for it. California "is degenerating into a banana republic," writes former Enron adviser Paul Krugman in his New York Times column. Leon Panetta, himself a Californian, writes in the Los Angeles Times that California is undergoing a "breakdown in [the] trust that is essential to governing in a democracy." Newsday quotes Bob Mulholland, another California political activist, as warning of "a coup attempt by the Taliban element." Others say a move is under way to "hijack" Californias government.
What isnt widely known is that the U.S. has a large military presence in California. And our troops are coming under attack from angry locals. "Two off-duty Marines were stabbed, one critically, when they and two companions were attacked by more than a dozen alleged gang members early Thursday," KSND-TV reports from San Diego, a city in Californias south.
How many young American men and women will have to make the ultimate sacrifice before we realize it isnt worth it? Is the Bush administration too proud to ask the U.N. for help in pacifying California? Plainly California has turned into a quagmire, and the sooner we bring our troops back home, the better.
Wesley J. Smith wrote this piece at NRO on the New England Journal of Medicine’s decision to lobby openly and politically for expanding human embryo stem cell research here in the U.S.
Worth a read.
The Vatican is now a formal
member in the gay marriage debate, urging Catholic leaders and politicians to oppose the gay marriage trend and push to preserve traditional marriages between men and women. The only surprise is that it took this long.
Spain is set to become the first Catholic country in Europe to support human embryonic stem cell research. This is significant because Europe is currently very divided on the issue. The predominantly Catholic countries (and Germany) have thus far opposed stem cell research that involves human embryo destruction, while the less-Catholic countries, including England, Holland and Sweden, have supported it. Spain’s decision could signal a shift in the European balance--not a good sign for those who favor the U.S. prohibition on funding stem cell research, as pressure mounts for us to relax our ethics-based position.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has proposed a ban on pharmaceutical advertising. The Boston Herald reports that "[l]ead sponsor Kathi-Anne Reinstein (D-Revere) said she doesn’t ’begrudge anyone their First Amendment rights,’ and doesn’t pretend to know the legal implications of the bill."
While the ban is an admitted long shot, it’s always amazing to see which First Amendment rights East Coast liberals support and which they don’t--which is only slightly less amazing than watching lawmakers pass laws without knowing their legal implications.
Mark Stricherz reports in the latest Weekly Standard that some feminists are worried and that the conventional wisdom on women is wrong: Most women are anti-abortion and, well, I guess they might be described as Republican. The Center for the Advancement of Women has just published a study, a very long study, called "Progress and Perils: A New Agenda for Women." (Here is Part I and this is Part II (PDF files, very long). The central finding is this: Far from wanting abortion as readily available as botox or tattoos (1.3 million abortions took place in 2000), most women oppose the procedure. As Faye Wattleton (former president of Planned Parenthood) wrote in the introduction, "There is significant and growing support for severe restrictions on abortion rights." Sancta simplicitas! She is worried, and she should be. Pretty soon some similarly interesting stats on the homosexual marriage issue will start appearing, and then even more folks will be worried.
The two daughters of Saddam Hussein in exile in Jordan, will claim the bodies of their brothers, Udey and Qusay, it is being reported. One of the daughters also said that the fall of Baghdad was a "great shock" and blamed it on the betrayal by associates of the deposed tyrant (although she probably said leader). The daughters are in Jordan.
A new biography of John Wayne claims that Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin was so outraged by the anti-communistic attitude of film star John Wayne that he tried to have him assassinated, twice.
Forgive the blanked out French, but I find this irresistible for high political reasons. Andrew Stuttaford at The Corner says this, and I quote in full: "The Rolling Stones have been performing in Prague. Amongst the highlights, an appearance by Vaclav Havel. He appeared on stage and presented a T-shirt to Keith Richards. The T-Shirt’s slogan?
’F--k the Communists.’
Press reports note that the T-shirt drew ’laughs and applause’ from the audience.
Czech communists are, reportedly, offended by this gesture. Well, Havel is right, f--k ’em. Their party was responsible for the murder, jailing or exile of tens of thousands of people - and that’s really something to be ’offended’ by."
Nicholas Antongiavanni writes a precious essay on the death of the white tie and tailcoat. If you think this has nothing to do with politics and the moral virtues, oh, you would be so wrong. I also suspect that the author Mr. Antongiavanni is himself fashion’s own knight. This is a worthy addition to our understanding of ourselves. I am impressed with the many good things being published by The City Journal. Take your sweet time over this one. Don’t speed read it, for Heaven’s sake.
Here is another essay by him, this on the difference between formality and dandification, in case you want more.
Peter, here is what the slap on Judge Martin looks like in DC:
"A bitter dispute between liberal and conservative federal judges over an affirmative action case apparently concluded yesterday with a judicial disciplinary body’s ruling that allegations of misconduct against the chief judge of a key appeals court are now moot." "Apparently"? Can’t reporter Charles Lane figure it out for us? WaPo
Jerry Springer will wait until Wednesday to announce whether or not he will run for the U.S. Senate. And it is being reported that Arnold Schwarzenegger will also announce his intention on Wednesday on the Jay Lenno Show. The Teamsters will endorse Gephardt. He needs their support, as he continues to slide in the polls. Hillary Clinton will campaign for California Governor Gray David next week. Mark Penn’s (works for Lieberman, was Clinton’s pollster) new poll of independent voters show they are not interested in coming out in large numbers. Notice the newly created silly category of "office-park dads" (remember the "soccer moms"?); these people just make things up. And here’s E.J. Dionne’s banal take on the boring Demo candidates. Read it last, it’s a soporific, just like their campaign.
Paul Boutin writes for Slate how it has been recently discovered that the much tauted voting machines (to fix the hanging-chad problems) are full of holes. Many of us predicted problems like this. There are huge dangers here, and theyre beginning to be talked about.
A California town has hired goats to gobble up tinder-dry brush and grass on four acres.
"These are working goats," said Fire Battalion Chief Greg Moore, lauding the herd that went to work Tuesday. "They are environmentally friendly." The service will cost between $4,000 and 5,000. Maybe this helps explain why the state is going to the dogs.
Paul Robinson writes a longish article on the American South and its conception of honor, and how it still lives. There may be something to it, and even something to attributing some of Bushs actions to it. But not too much. Still, its worth a read.
Jane Mayer writes a good (and long) essay for The New Yorker on our attempts to get bin Laden (even under Clintons watch) and why its so tough. There are all the ordinary bureaucratic problems (especially under Clinton) and then there is Pakistan. That Pakistan is a political maze doesnt help much; and neither does their lack of vigor in helping us root out Taliban elements. There is a lot more in the article, and its a good read. There are many interesting tid-bits, and the conjectures are, well, conjectures.
Secretary of State Colin Powell has signed off on the $30 million reward to the person who led U.S. forces to Saddam’s sons Uday and Qusay. Powell also called Saddam Hussein "a piece of trash, waiting to be collected." The Dutch SFIR (Stabilisation Force Iraq) troops took command of peacekeeping operations in Al-Muthanna province on 31 July. They have relieved the American forces there. One American was killed and four wounded. The Train in Northern Iraq, between Mosul and Syria was re-opened and made its first run in a year. Meanwhile, in Najaf a female judge was to be appointed, many protested and fatwas were issued.
"We refuse the appointment of a woman judge, because it contradicts Islamic law," said Rajiha al-Amidi, one of the women in the group protesting the appointment. "This is what the Americans wanted to achieve in the first place with their invasion, to undermine Islam."
A woman cannot be a judge, she explained, because "women are always ruled by their emotions."
Judicial Watch is reporting that the Judicial Council of the Sixth Circuit let stand a finding that Chief Judge Boyce F. Martin violated federal and Sixth Circuit rules in a case involving the death penalty and the University of Michigan Law School affirmative action case which later went before the Supreme Court. Here is a good backrgound on the issue by Todd E. Gaziano. Well, it seems as if sometimes justice does prevail.
Mac Owens has some timely thoughts on how we are doing against the guerrillas in Iraq. The answer is pretty well, and we should keep the pressure up. Go after the bad guys quick and hard, and help the good guys as best as we can.
Deborah Orin thinks that Dean is now the Democratic front-runner. He’s the only Dem moving up in the polls. The AP agrees and says there is a lot of interest now in his record as governor, so much interest that the current governor of Vermont is thinking of adding more staff to the state archives. Jiles Witcover explains how Dean set up his website, meanwhile money continues to pour in to Deanforum.
Oxblog points out yet another example of BBCs mischievious reporting. Get this: Tony Blair said (as he responded to a question asking whether he would continue to serve as prime minister in a third Labour term in government): "There is a big job of work to do - my appetite for doing it is undiminished."
And heres what the BBC reported in its lede: "Mr Blair, who said his appetite for power remained undiminished...."
And not to let a good distortion go, the website then links to the story thusly: "Tony Blair sidesteps questions on the David Kelly affair - but says his appetite for power is "undiminished"."
A reader sent me this CNN note that is connected to my previous blog on Bush’s press conference. The article briefly notes some of Bush’s plainspoken responses to questions during the press conference. It claims that Bush has added to the growing list of "Bush-isms." Even though Bush’s way of speaking, unfortunately, lacks the natural rhythm of English, his folksy way with words and phrases are good and appealing clear. It is good that he says we want bin Laden "dead or alive," or that we "will smoke them out." I remind you of what Churchill said: "Short words are best and old words when short are best of all." Note that there is a professor from the University of Texas quoted in the article, who--in trying to disparage Bush’s way of speaking--is making a mess of the language himself. Bush one, professor zero.
I drove down to Zanesville yesterday (almost a two hour drive, I went the long way) and therefore had a chance to listen to Bush’s press conference. John Podhoretz thinks that he was too testy. I disagree. I thought he struck the right note. I liked what he said about almost everything, and I liked the tone of it. I thought his comments on the gay marriage issue were perfect, and it has already put people off balance. Why do his opponents think he will roll over every time he gets pushed around? He clearly doesn’t lik to be pushed around, perhaps especially by the press, and most especially when he thinks the press is doing nothing else but repeating Democrat candidates’ mantra about Iraq. Just because Bush isn’t Demosthenes-like in his rhetoric at press conferences his opponents seem to think that he is incapable of thinking. He proves them wrong every time. He is even clearer in his thinking when he’s angry, as he was yesterday. Combine his anger with his clear thinking and you get a President worthy of the office. Good for Bush. Good for us. Bad for the press and his opponents. I hope they continue underestimating him. Here is the transcript of the press conference.
On Monday, President Bush once again reminded us why his approach to bridging Americas racial divide is both principled and practical. He decided to speak before the Urban League, not the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). This decision, as well as
his speech, show how much Bush wants to "make the promise of America real for everyone."
In short, when it comes to ridding the nation of racism, Bush has no time to address the rants of yesteryear. Taking full view of Americas imperfect past, and a firm hold upon her highest ideals of equality and freedom, Bush continues to hearken the nation back to what is good about America in order to point the way forward--to expand the scope and protection of the rights and opportunities of every American. Here are a few paragraphs from the close of his speech:
Recently, on my trip to Africa, I visited Goree Island in Senegal, where for centuries, men and women were delivered and sorted and branded and shipped. Its a haunting place, a reminder of mankinds capacity for cruelty and injustice.
Yet Goree Island is also a reminder of the strength of the human spirit, and the capacity for good to overcome evil. The men and women who boarded slave ships on that island and wound up in America endured the separation of their families, the brutality of their oppressors, and the indifference of laws that regarded them only as articles of commerce. Still, the spirit of Africans in America did not break. (Applause.) All the generations of oppression under the laws of man could not crush the hope of freedom. And by a plan known only to Providence, the stolen sons and daughters of Africa helped to awake the conscience of America. The very people traded into slavery helped to set America free. (Applause.)
The moral vision of African Americans and of groups like the Urban League caused Americans to examine our hearts, to correct our Constitution, and to teach our children the dignity and equality of every person of every race.
Mark Steyn writes a long column on Idi Amin, and regrets that he is out of his coma. Steyn happens to mention that Amins effectionate nickname in Saudi Arabia is "Dr. Jaffa", because he loves to eat oranges. Glenn Ellmers at The Remedy has confirmed this outrage of chance from this interview with Giles Foden (see the last paragraph). This is quite remarkable and if I were a Roman I would consider it malis avibus, but Im not, so its just very funny. Risum teneatis, amici?
The Religion Department at Rhodes College is the issue. The suit is by a professor who didn’t get tenure. It seems that one of her colleagues (the department chair?) was much too interested in her, etc. This reads like a "steamy sex novel" according to the story. What pricked my interest are these lines from the story: "In a sort of X-rated update of William Buckley1s 1951 conservative classic God and Man at Yale, Walsh says the religion department at Rhodes, which has historic ties to the Presbyterian church, is a hotbed of liberalism, atheism, and feminism with a dash of lesbianism for good measure." (via Critical Mass)
I dont like neckties, never have. Its got to be the most ridiculous custom ever invented. The guy that came up with it is in Dantes ninth circle, Im certain. When I want a splash of sartorial elegance I throw on a bolo (and polish my boots) and thats that. So this doesnt surprise me: "Research reported in the British Journal of Ophthalmology on Tuesday showed that a tight necktie raises blood pressure in the eye, which is a leading risk factor in the illness that can lead to damage to the optic nerve and loss of vision." This has to be avoided because we all know that sight is the noblest sense, and we also know why.
This news report says that Louis Borders, the guy who started Borders Books, just launched KeepMedia Inc., a Web site offering consumers unlimited access to a database of magazine articles for a flat monthly rate of $4.95. Here is the Home Page. They are offering a free seven day trial. Although on first sight it looks to me as if there arent enough serious publications (maybe theyll add more?), it still may be worth it. Ill report later.
I dont know. I am sitting here on a perfectly nice afternoon--doing necessary bureaucratic work (i.e., boring myself to death) when Id rather be out riding my bike--and then this is sent to me by a friend. It perked me up! Oberlin High School has a problem. Some parents (I gather mostly black) are up in arms because a white teacher has been assigned to teach a course on black history. You get the picture. Its amazing that in an article of some three hundred words, every form of weird opinion is to be found. I guess Ill have to consider not teaching Fred Douglass, Booker T. Washington, et al, never mind slavery. You Americans continue to amuse me.
Another Saddam Hussein audio-tape is making the rounds. He is admitting that his sons are dead, he is thankful that they are martyrs, etc. He is becoming very religious in his last few days, dont you think?
John H. McWhorter writes a wonderful essay on rap/hip-hop and the behavior it encourages. It is thoughtful and informative and concludes that those who think that hip-hop is an urgent critique of a society that produces the need for the thug persona, are wrong. Hip-hop is bad, and has the effect of holding blacks (especially) back. I am not doing justice to the piece. You must read it.
Peter Kirsanow writes a very good op-ed on a very important subject coming out of the Grutter decision: racial fraud (i.e., someone self-identifying himself as being of this race or that just to get some preference) is going to become an even bigger issue now. There are now rogue applicants that may destroy the "critical mass" test of the courts. These applicants to colleges may pull what the Malones pulled in trying to become firefighters in Boston. What will happen then, asks Kirsanow? Colleges will have to establish a standard for races, he thinks. Self identification may be on its way out. A few precious lines, but do read the whole thing: "All of which raises the delightful prospect of an earnest college-admissions officer in the next racial-preferences court case explaining to the jury how he determined that Tiger Woods is not entitled to a plus because Tigers black ancestry is cancelled out by his Asian genes." This would be amusing, if it werent so frightening.
I was on NPRs WCPN (90.3) this morning out of Cleveland. Me and the editor of The Plain Dealer were back-ups to their guest, Trudy Lieberman, author of Slanting the Story: The Forces that Shape the News. Her thesis is, briefly, that right-wing think tanks dominate the policy process and these same think tanks are all funded by right-wing foundations and isnt this an awful thing. She was especially miffed because conservative think tanks have "undue influence" and are better organized and more effective than their left-wing counterparts. She admitted that conservatives have been more succesful in shaping public opinion; but the "other side" of the story is not getting out because the right wingers are "manipulating" the news process. The right wingers even run the media, etc. You get the picture. Doug Clifton, the editor of the Plain Dealer was quite sensible about all this, and I also tried to be. My point in even bringing it to your attention is that this is just another example of sour grapes on the Lefts part; you know, why are there no Left Rush Limbaughs, etc. They havent had any interesting ideas in about thirty years and they are now angry. Thats really what she was talking about.
This NY Times article recounts how our guys nabbed one of Saddams "lifelong bodyguards;" he had to be overpowered. They also got documents, etc. It seems to me that getting Saddams bodyguards (and about a dozen were nabbed just before we got Saddams sons) might be more important than anything else in our search for Saddam. It indicates to me that we really are getting ever closer to finding him. Also note the comment of the Colonel in charge of the operation as he described that the bodyguard struggled to get free. Was he surprised? His answer: "Were we surprised? Hes a bodyguard. Thats why we went in with our steely knives and oily guns." This well-spoken Colonel has a sense of humor.
No, not Bob Hope, whose death Peter noted yesterday. Erik Braunn, guitarist with Iron Butterfly, died yesterday at 52. His guitar-playing on "Inna - Gadda - Da - Vita" gave thousands of young guitarists hope. It didnt matter how much or little talent they had. If they kept practicing those 14-minute repetitive and narcissistic solos, maybe the world would recognize their genius and give them a platinum record, too.
This Thomas Ricks story in the WaPo is pretty good. It seems to make clearer than anything I have seen how it is that we are getting better intelligence, and why some people think we may have turned a corner.
Terrence Moore explains that children need discipline before they learn. Amusing, hearing this Marine tell the story of how he couldnt control a bunch of first graders. But, he learned.
We have now completed four week-long summer institutes for teachers. You can not only get the readings and assignments, but listen to all of the sessions.
"The American Revolution and the Founding of the New Nation." Flannery and Lloyd.
"Abraham Lincoln, Slavery, and the Civil War." Owens and Morel.
American Democracy, Being Human, and the American Character." Flannery and Tucker.
"The Origins and Development of the Supreme Court." Masugi and Sikkenga.
The Boston Herald announces the results of a new poll: If Hillary Clinton were a condidate she would receive 27% of the vote, compared to Deans 23%. This would throw Kerry into a tailspin, with only 16%. ``Hillary would be leading the race and has higher favorable ratings than Dean . . . at this point in time, said Myers of RKM Research and Communications.
New York City will open the first public gay school in the country. It is called the Harvey Milk School. One supporter says it will allow gay, bisexual, and transgender students "an opportunity to obtain a secondary education in a safe and supportive environment. ... We believe that success requires the ability to respect and value the diverse human community." I am reminded of what Churchill said about Ramsay Macdonald: "He has the gift of compressing the largest amount of words into the smallest amount of thought."
Food now equals heroin. Wonderful. "The combination of fat with sugar or fat with salt seems to have a very particular neurochemical effect on the brain, Ann Kelley, a professor at the University of Wisconsin who co-authored the unpublished study, said on the Fox News Channel. What that does is release certain chemicals that are similar to drugs, like heroin and morphine."
Charles Napoleon, a great-great-grandnephew of Napoleon Bonaparte (his great-grandfather changed his familys last name from Bonaparte to Napoleon) is second deputy mayor of Ajaccio, in Corsica. This short two-page story from the NY Times is worth a look, as a sort of curioso, but not without some significance, i.e., it may help explain something of Messr de Villepins goofy ideas (see David A. Bell, "The Napoleon Complex: Dominique de Villepins idea of glory," The New Republic, April 14, 2003). Mr. Napoleon says "One cannot escape ones history," (nor can a nation, I would add) and he is proud that his name is known all over the world. So what, so is the name of Attila the Hun, or Ghengis Khan! This left-wing politician came to Corsica from Paris, where he was born because he is "coming back to something logical, which is the presence of the Bonaparte family in Corsica." He says this about making hotel reservations: "When Ive called [a hotel] and said Im `Mr. Napoleon, Ive been told, `Sure, and Im the pope, he said. Thats my heritage. What can I do?"
He said his life is easier in the U.S. because "Americans dont know much about history. I have to spell my name in the U.S." Needless to say, I think this reflects well on us.
Peter, notice Panetta’s positive reference to nonpartisanship-- he was a Republican who switched parties (in the ’70s I believe) and then went on to become one of Clinton’s chiefs of staff. Unlike his former master, I believe he is looking for a draft. Thanks for the tip on the Panetta story; I didn’t get the LA Times this morning.
Jonathan Rauch writes a lengthy and thoughtful piece on the Bush presidency thus far; he thinks that Bush wants to be another FDR--wartime leader, strong commander in chief--and he is being misunderstood. Rauch thinks he is playing for high stakes, and if he fails he will be another LBJ. Powerline has some good comments on this. Although see this warning from George Will.
Fareed Zakaria reviews Simon Schamas A History of Britain in the N.Y. Times Book Review. Although it does not seem to be as good as his Citizens (the best book on the French Revolution, in my mind) this Schama volume might be worth a look. He emphasizes how the Brits (though not Churchill) came to misunderstand their reason for empire.
Lance Armstrong has now won five in a row, albeit this one was closer than he thought it would be. Well done and congratulations!
This is an interesting, and perhaps surprising, report of some of the work that Bechtel is doing in Iraq: fixing up schools. Short. Informative.
Richard Brookhiser writes a nice essay for American Heritage called "France and Us." It is a nice recollection of our early, albeit difficult, connections; of two revolutions that went in divergent directions (although he doesnt try to explain why the French Revolution became so extreme and bloody, yet notes that it ended with a Napoleon who understood that his people wanted him to be a Washington, but his gloire couldnt do it); and above all asks us to recollect the virtues of our true friend, the Marquis de Lafayette. Good read.
I surprised myself by actually reading (never mind fully understanding, for the moment) this article from New Left Review, of all places, trying to figure out why Europe’s economy (compared to Britain and America especially) is still sucking pond water, and why it is bound to continue it’s unimpressive performance into the immediate future. There might be a few of you green-eye-shade- types who will even get more out of this than I have.
And, speaking of bad constitutions, here is George Wills take on the effort of Europe to craft one: Its a mess; they should have studied the Constitution of the U.S.
This is Leon Panetta’s take on the politics of California. He doesn’t get it, of course. You wanted progressive politics (initiative, referendum, recall, government by experts, and so called non-partisanship) and you got it. Now try to deal with it. I hope you will not be able to, and maybe we can begin crawling back toward some limitation, toward some form of constitutionalism. And I don’t mean the current California Constitution, which is the world’s third largest (after India and Lousiana) and has been amended over 500 times since 1879. For more on California politics, and especially the Progressive movement’s effect on it, see Brian P. Janiskee and Ken Masugi, Democracy in California: Politics and Government in the Golden State. And Gray Davis, to no one’s surprise, is going to try to make sure that the recall is not about him but about the right wings agenda for California.