Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Brazen Drazen on Law and Medicine

In case you missed it, Jeffrey M. Drazen, editor of the renowned New England Journal of Medicine, published an editorial last week calling for papers on stem-cell research, and pleading with Congress to relax its position on the subject. In an interview about the piece, Drazen said: "[w]e wanted to go on record on this. At this point, stem cell research technology is likely to be developed outside the US, and we’re going to be missing out on that technical know-how. The best and the brightest will be going out of the country to do this sort of work. We would hope that people will understand that you can’t legislate away scientific progress."

As an initial matter, yes, in fact, we can and have legislated away so-called "scientific progress," but the bigger question, it seems to me, is whether the U.S. should care that certain scientists might leave to pursue certain kinds of research.

A Job Weldon(e)

The Family Research Council reported the following legislative initiative offered in the House of Representatives by Congressman Weldon of Florida:

Copy Rights? Rep. Weldon Clamps Down on Cloning Patent

After months of debate, Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL) has finally driven a
stake through the heart of the pro-cloning movement. Late last night,
as part of a voice vote, Dr. Weldon successfully added a human patenting
amendment to the Commerce/Justice/State Appropriations bill (HR 2799).
The amendment states that no funds made available by the
act may be "used to issue patents on claims directed to or encompassing
a human organism." You may remember that two years ago the U.S.
government gave the University of Missouri both property and
intellectual rights to cloning technology, and a controversy has since
ensued--giving rise to speculation that our country was in an ethical
free fall. However, passage of the Weldon amendment marks the first
time the House has taken a position that humans are not merchandise or
property that can be licensed, purchased, or sold. Surely few
scientists will want to devote their resources to cloning projects
without the assurance that they alone would be legally entitled to their
work and credited with future findings. Dr. Weldon, a pro-life champion
and friend, believes--as we do--that human embryos are people whose
copyright belongs to the Almighty. We will continue to work alongside
him to ensure that they receive full protection under the law.

All sounds vaguely similar to a certain article posted here just a few weeks ago.

Transcripts of the amendment’s offering read in part:"[i]t is important that we, as a civilized society, draw the line where some rogue scientists fail to exercise restraint. Just because something can be done does not mean that it should be done. A patent on such human organisms would last for 20 years. We should not allow such researchers to gain financially by granting them an exclusive right to practice such ghoulish research. Long-standing American patent and trademark policy states that human beings at any stage of development are not patentable, subject to matters under 35 U.S.C. section 101. Though current policy would not issue patents on human embryos, Congress has remained silent on this subject. Though this amendment would not actually ban this practice, it is about time that Congress should simply reaffirm current U.S. patent policy and ensure there is not financial gain or ownership of human beings by those who engage in these activities."

Bravo, Mr. Weldon!

Health Care and Race

Reuters has reported that "[h]ealth officials may be wrong in attempts to match health care and especially drugs with race, because genetically there is no such thing," according to gene experts. Those experts "praised the U.S. Food And Drug Administration for trying to formulate guidance that would take genetics into account when testing drugs, but said using simple notions of race was not the way to go." According to the report, "Several teams of scientists have found that there are more genetic differences among Africans from different regions, for example, than there are between Africans and Europeans." Thus, several geneticists have argued that "self-reported race is irrelevant. ’It would be inaccurate to check off any one box on the U.S. census if you were African-American or Caucasian because to some degree we all admixed . . . . Six million people have actually changed, between censuses, their racial classification, so we are using social constructs to try and define very important scientific issues.’" Their conclusion: "Better to design individual genetic tests to use on a patient-by-patient basis." Imagine that, one less reason for government programs to consider race.

Birds and Bees

If you’re interested in science’s on-going sexual revolution, MSNBC has this synopsis of where we’re at and where we might be going.

9/11 Report

Here is the Report (PDF Format) "Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001." Careful before priting, it’s very long.

Armstrong set to win

Lance Armstrong increased his lead slightly over Ullrich in the drama-packed time trial. And that should be that!

Dead Bodies, to show or not to show

This WaPo newstory is just one example among many (never mind what passes for TV reporting on it) articles that keep repeating that many Iraqis don’t believe that Saddam’s sons are dead, or that we shouldn’t have shown the bodies, or that we shouldn’t have touched them up, etc. Yes, "many" Iraqis will say such things, and many Germans (30% of those under thirty) think that we blew up the two towers. So what? Why is this a newstory? The day before the bodies were shown the story was that many Iraqis demanded that the bodies be shown. I saw one Iraqi say into a camera that he would prefer that the bodies be dragged behind a truck through Baghdad and then he would believe it! I saw Howard Nachman (I think that’s his name) a couple of nights ago, before the bodies were shown, on MSNBC say that we have to have a multicultural perspective on all this (he was in favor of showing the bodies): Their culture demands some gruesome things (by our standards) and we should--to be multi-cultural--accomodate them, show the bodies, that’s what they will believe. His interlocutor said something like this, yup, their culture is more barbaric than ours, to which Nachman said "Oh, no, that’s exactly wrong, it’s just different." My point is that both what passes for news stories is deplorable (that is, we are not learning anything) and the commentary is either silly or as dull as a Hungarian trying to philosophize.

Dalls Morning News, new blog

The Dallas Morning News has a new blog and Rod Dreher writes much of it. Worth a look. (via Stuart Buck.)

David Brooks to write for the New York Times

The New York Times announced yesterday that David Brooks will write two op-eds a week starting in September. Could this be a sign that the NYT is going to get better? Yet, no doubt, Krugman and Dowd will continue to write. But it’s a start.

Rantings of the elite mob

Victor Davis Hanson has a nice synopsis of what he calls hysteria Americana among the elite mob. Pretty effective.  

More News of the Weird

The Associated Press today carries a story about a parish priest in New Mexico who is being sued for his eulogy at a recent funeral. It seems the priest said at the funeral that the recently deceased was headed for Hell. The family was not pleased. If it goes to trial, I look forward to the priest using truth as a defense.

Freak Show Follies, Chapter 1

Ken Masugi rightly forecasts that the California recall "jungle" ballot could turn into a freak show that hands victory to Davis. This morning’s paper brings the first indication this prospect: Michael Huffington is thinking of joining the race.

He would be a terrible candidate, the more so now that he is divorced from the brains of his earlier political career, Arianna. Of course, some people are urging Arianna to make the race herself, and since she kept her married family name, we could have a ballot with TWO Huffingtons on it. Maybe that’s why he’s talking about making the race--to try to keep her out, or to split the Huffington vote--a la Palm Beach County--if she does.

Stay tuned; the weirdness is just beginning.

Recall Thoughts

Steve and Eric have given us a lot to consider here. I have the same ambivalence, maybe worse, because I think Governor Gray has a good chance of getting out of this stronger than ever, with the Republicans weaker and more disspirited than ever. I hate to say it, but the Terminator appears to be the best chance to get Davis out of office. Former Governor Pete Wilson’s folks are behind him, and that is not good news for conservatives. The more divided the field, the better the chance for the Republicans to prevail in casting out Davis. My prediction right now, if neither the Terminator nor DiFi enters the race, is that Davis stays. For a bunch of thoughtful blogs on this issue see the Claremont Institute’s blogsite,
The Remedy
over the past few weeks.

The Racial Privacy Initiative, Ward Connerly’s act barring state collection of racial data, could bring out Democratic votes from blacks and Hispanics.

I predict a lot of race-ethnicity mongering by the Dems, as part of a desperation bring-out-the-vote tactic.

Recall, con’t

It is hard to disagree with Eric’s analysis of the situation. My standard line (being a Californian) is: The initiative process is unsound; thank God for the initiative process! The same can be said of this recall. The populist corner of my soul loves the insult to the political class that the recall represents. In that sense there is some health in it.

Although I am critical of the initiative process in the abstract, I say "thank God" for it on practical grounds, since initiatives have been crucial in advancing conservative policy in California. Without the initiative process, California would be worse off than New York--i.e., even higher taxes, etc.

We wouldn’t be in this budget mess if Reagan’s Proposition 1--a comprehensive tax and spending limitation initiative--had passed in 1973. It was just a little bit ahead of its time, and the liberals managed to beat it back. Colorado passed a similar measure a few years ago. Guess which state today doesn’t have any budget problems? Colorado.

California recall, the opportunities

This is a devil’s-advocate response to Peter’s piece (below) and Steven’s NRO Corner piece about the recall. I agree with everything Peter and Steven say about the recall and the initiative at the level of political principle. It debases democratic government because it sucks the republicanism out of it. But I don’t think I agree with the proposition that it’s bad tactics for Republicans to use the recall when they hold the cards. This is a close call. It’s not a question of high theory but of prudence. Let me offer a few prudential considerations that cut against Steven’s arguments.

First, I don’t think conservatives keep any long-term advantage by playing by Marquis-of-Queensbury rules. If the liberals perceive any opportunity to use the recall as Steven suggests, they’ll seize that opportunity no matter how forbearing conservatives are now. Second, even though California is trending Democratic, the electorate is still more conservative than the interests in Sacramento. That makes me doubt how successful liberal interest groups could be over the long haul using the recall as a weapon.

Probably the most important, and hardest to judge, consideration to me is this. Prudence requires conservatives to judge not only (1) how best to do win so as to do good on substantive issues and not only (2) how to make the best of a bad constitutional politics but also (3) whether there is any way to improve the constitutional politics. Let us assume California conservatives know how to make principled arguments against the initiative and the recall. (Big "if," I admit, because few Californians outside of Claremont can make these arguments.) The only way to make those arguments sink in for a broad majority in the state is to force liberals to taste some of their own Progressive medicine.

My precedent here is the federal post-Watergate Independent Counsel statute. Conservatives said that this was another Progressive-style abomination, that it weakened and distracted the President, gave Congress a hammer to bully Presidential appointees, and wouldn’t do any good in cases in which the President was going to be prosecuted because the prosecution was political anyway. (For a refresher, read Justice Scalia’s dissenting opinion in Morrison v. Olson.) The Supreme Court ignored all this in Morrison. So did liberals in Congress -- until after Judge Starr investigated President Clinton. After that debacle, the OIC statute died a quiet and deserved death. The recall would be harder to get rid of, but a prudent statesman at least ought to consider trying.

Ice Cream and other dangerous stuff

Ice cream is bad for you. Is anyone surprised by this? This has been all over TV for two days, as if it were a truly interesting story. Who makes up this stuff? Why is it that the food fascists have to go under names like The Center for Science in the Public Interest? And why is it taken seriously? We know that things that taste good may be bad for you; that’s nature way of making sure that you end up paying the one death you owe God. So let us do it our own way, stop babysitting, for Heaven’s sake! Check this out: "The CSPI said an empty Ben & Jerry’s chocolate-dipped waffle cone, designed to hold at least two scoops of ice cream, itself packs 320 calories and 10 grams or half a day’s worth of saturated fat.

’If you put a regular scoop of Chunky Monkey ice cream in that cone, it is going to be worse for you than (a) one-pound rack of baby back ribs, with with 820 calories and 30 grams of saturated fat,’ CSPI nutritionist Jayne Hurley told a news conference to publicize the study." Ghastly facts, just ghastly!

And then there is this warning: "Eating while you drive is one of the most distracting things you can do, according to several recent surveys by insurance companies and data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)." Some of the most dangerous foods to eat while driving include: "Soft drinks. Prone to spills and sudden fizzing if car makes sudden movements. Cola fizz in the nose is perilous while driving." Also, "Chocolate. Tempting but treacherous. Try to clean it off the steering wheel and you’re likely to end up swerving." Gee, that’s a public service. Thanks.

Good economic news

Another sign that the economy is reviving: The number of American workers signing up for jobless benefits plunged last week to the lowest level in five months.

Qusay and Uday Photos

Here is the CNN version of the photos; pretty ugly head shots. And then Reuters (via ABC News) runs a story that begins like this: " Iraqis said on Thursday they were not convinced by photographs of the bodies of Saddam Hussein’s sons and demanded the corpses should be dragged through the streets as proof the feared brothers were dead." Perhaps this is not surprising when considered with the fact that there are some American Congressmen screeching that we are now in the asssination game; and then consider this poll from Germany: " Almost one in three Germans below the age of 30 believes the U.S. government may have sponsored the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, according to a poll published on Wednesday." I guess the world is mad (or maybe it’s just Old Europe)....

California Recall, the dangers

Our own Steve Hayward is guest-blogging at The Corner for the next few weeks, and he has already said some interesting things about the California recall of Davis. I quote a few paragraphs because they are good and I agree with them (surprise!): "...[T]he Davis recall is not grounded on any particularly conservative principle. Quite the opposite: The recall, and the California initiative process generally, are outgrowths of the Progressive Era in California, and are intended to make government more ’populist’ or ’democratic.’ The irony of course is that the initiative proces has mostly served conservative policy goals over the last generation in California, starting with Prop 13 and running through Prop 209 (ending racial preferences), term limits (though this is a dubious idea at best), a state version of the Defense of Marriage Act, etc. But conservatives’ fondness for these Progressive devices in California have caused them to abandon or forget deeper principles about how republican government ought to operate.

"If successful, the recall is likely to lead to the de facto transformation of California into something like a parliamentary democracy. In the future, whenever a governor’s popularity swoons (Pete Wilson’s polls were very bad in 1992 and 1993), the liberal special interest groups are likely to try the recall route themselves; they have more money and organization than the right in California. Having done it once, Californians might get used to doing it over and over again--a populist/Progressive form of a ’no-confidence’ vote, and the elevation of a new prime minister. In a state that is likely to remain dominated by Democrats, the recall may come back to haunt Republicans for years to come."

California news source

By the way, for No Left Turns readers who want to keep up on the recall and other California political news, the Rough & Tumble site is an excellent one-stop location, run by the very enterprising Jack Cavanaugh in Sacramento.

Gray Davis, Hopeless Nerd

The Davis recall election has just been set for October 7. Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante, who set the election date by law, is playing games about whether there will be a second vote to replace Davis. If there is no second vote, then he would become governor by default. This is not likely to happen; the law seems fairly clear that a second, replacement vote must be held at the same time. But you never know with lawyers.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reports today on Davis’s daily diet. He has a tofu shake with fresh berries for breakfast, and lunch consists of a turkey sandwich (but without cheese!) and steamed broccoli.

That ought to be reason enough to recall the guy. Sounds too much like the other governor for whom he once worked, Jerry Brown.

Democratic Woes Continue

The latest Quinnipiac University national poll shows the depths of the problem that the current crop of Democratic candidates for the presidency face. Joe Lieberman leads the pack with only 21 percent of the vote. However, when not-yet-candidate Hillary Clinton is factored in, Lieberman gets only 11 percent, while Hillary Clinton gets 48 percent. If this sort of support continues for Hillary--in comparison to other Demo candidates--either she will enter the race or, any other Democratic nominee will be certain to lose against Bush for lack of a firm base.

Edward Teller, American

Edward Teller, the Hungarian-born scientist who was in large measure responsible for winning the Cold War will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Teller is 95 years old, although his body is faling, his mind is still sharp. John J. Miller wrote a profile of this smart and good man for National Review last year that is very much worth reading. Miller concludes that if there is ever an argument for cloning, this just might be the guy who should get cloned. I have had the pleasure of meeting Teller a number of times and I concur with Miller’s portrayal of this good, and much maligned, American. May his good deeds continue to shine in this naughty world.

Iraqi matters and politics

Steven Den Beste is able to explain in brief why we are in Iraq trying to build a new nation (it’s in our interest) and how it’s going (pretty well). He is also convinced that we will stick with it. Deborah Orin explains why the Democrats are in danger of developing an electoral strategy based on bad news from Iraq. And Bill Kristol explains in today’s Washington Post why the words of Richard Gephardt are decisive for the future of the Democratic Party. In claiming that we are less safe and secure than we were four years ago, "Gephardt has made a claim that will come back to haunt him and his fellow Democrats."

Wolfowitz on Iraq

This is a transcript of Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz’s press conference after returning from Iraq. It makes for good reading and, while he admits to some minor failures or oversights and how some things didn’t go according to the original plans, his overall evaluation is both thoughtful and optimistic. This is not a decription of a quagmire. I believe him.

Democratic Party Problems

David Lightman writes an interesting and detailed article on the Demos money woes in the Hartford Courant. California Governor Gray Davis is planning a tough but risky counterattack against the campaign to oust him. Clinton opponents are trying to open a museum near the Clinton Library that would debunk his presidency. Dick Morris claims that if Bush’s numbers continue to drop, Hillary will get in the 2004 race. In the meantime, Howard Dean leads in the California Field Poll. He has 16% of the vote; double of what he had in April. I wonder what percentage Hillary would have gotten if she were in it? And then there is Ohio. This Plain Dealer article says that Ohio Demos may be re-evaluating their opposition to Jerry Springer.

California Demos caught on tape

Katheryn Jean Lopez at The Corner brought this mischief to my attention. Do have a look; it’s short, but meaningful.

A Bad Man in Africa

Anthony Daniels wrote a good piece on the tyrant Charles Taylor a few weeks back that is worth reading. It comes from New Criterion’s new blog called Armavirumque, and it is worth a look. Good name, by the way, and I am betting that it is not meant to evoke George Barnard Shaw’s play Arms and the Man, but rather Virgil’s opening words in the Aeneid, which in turn evokes the war in the Iliad and the start of the Odyssey.

Shift in Strategy

Thomas Ricks of the WaPo explains how the shift in military strategy may be bearing fruit in Iraq. The start is worth quoting in full: "After weeks of difficult searching for the top targets on the U.S. government’s list of most-wanted Iraqi fugitives, U.S. military commanders two weeks ago switched the emphasis of their operations, focusing on capturing and gathering intelligence from low-level members of former president Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party who had been attacking American forces, according to military officials.

That shift produced a flood of new information about the location of the Iraqi fugitives, which came just before today’s attack in which Hussein’s two sons were killed by U.S. forces in the northern city of Mosul, the officials said.

"We shifted our focus from very high-level personalities to the people that are causing us damage," Gen. John P. Abizaid, the new commander of the U.S. military in the Middle East, said in an interview last weekend. Later, he told reporters in Baghdad: ’In the past two weeks, we have been getting the mid-level leadership in a way that is effective.’

The captured Baathists provided much new detail about their organization and contacts, officials here said. Some gave information about their financing and their means of communication, they added. Others identified members of their networks. Some described the routes and contacts that fugitive leaders were using. Threats to ship the recalcitrant captives to the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay on the eastern end of Cuba were especially helpful in encouraging them to talk, officials said."

Iran’s admission

The defense minister of Iran, just two days after President Bush’s verbal assault against the country, has admitted to holding a number of high level al-Qaida members.

Nuclear Terror

James Woolsey, former CIA chief, writes a long essay on the terror war and says that we should remain very tough. Graham Allison, of the Kennedy School, reminds us of what our greatest fear: nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists (via Russia, Pakistan, and North Korea) and that the Bush administration is not yet fully focused on this potential horror; there is no strategy to combat it. Now that’s an issue the Democrats could bring up to their advantage, as well as the country’s. I bet they won’t.

Clinton on Iraqi matters

Kevin Whited, at reductioadabsurdum quotes extensively from former president Clinton’s comments to Larry King last night on Iraq in general and the carping about the uranium sentence specifically. Worth a read. Kevin is right to call Clinton statesmanlike in all this. Good for him. It should be considered a warning to the Democrats who are running to the far-Left because Clinton has better political instincts than all of them put together; he never mistakes tactics for strategy, note this: "We should be pulling for America on this. We should be pulling for the people of Iraq. We can have honest disagreements about where we go from here, and we have space now to discuss that in what I hope will be a nonpartisan and open way."   

General Sanchez’s report

Here is report on General Ricardo Sanchez’s press conference of this morning on the details of the killing of Saddam’s sons.

Saddam’s sons III

Ralph Peters argues that the death of the two sons of Saddam is more significant than the fall of Baghdad. While I am not so sure about that, I do agree that it is significant. It is the penultimate step in actually moving Iraq into a new regime; finding Saddam will be the last step. It is beyond question that people still fear Saddam and his regime; that fear will decline a lot with the death of these two tyrants. It will end with the death of Saddam and then the habit of fear will eventually end. Also, this apparently well executed action puts a temporary halt to the left/media’s overly critical and pessimistic view of both developments within Iraq and the petty carping regarding Bush’s sixteen words on uranium. This proves, among other things, that the special forces guys have been diligently seeking and killing the tyrants and criminals, and we are reminded of it. There have been no press stories on this in part because the special ops guys do not talk to anyone, and in part because journalists are too lazy and misdirected to do some real reporting and hard reporting on these matters.

The killing of the two sons clearly helps to refocus the conversation on more important things, even though some of the carpers must be dissapointed by the good news out of Iraq. Although you wouldn’t know that from a speech that Gephardt gave yesterday in San Francisco, in which he said many stupid things, including this: "George Bush has left us less safe and less secure than we were four years ago, the Bush-Cheney bravado has left us isolated in the world." Gephardt is making a large mistake. I also saw Terry MacAuliffe on TV two nights ago saying (screeching, really) something to the effect that we can’t trust Bush on anything now that we know that he mislead us on the Africa uranium issue; Bush misleads and lies on everything from taxes to medicare to Iraq, he said.
MacAuliffe, Gephardt and the others think they are smelling blood because Bush’s popularity has been hurt by the recent and continuous carping, so they are going way over the top. This will prove to be a mistake, as Bill Kristol has pointed out.

Saddam’s Sons Killed in U.S. Raid

United States Central Command confirmed today that Uday and Qusay Hussein were killed in an operation led by the 101st Airborne and special forces in Mosul, Iraq. The Washington Post has more details here.

Michael Moore, Humbug

Kay S. Hymowitz writes a lengthy piece in the current issue of City Journal about the mendacity of Michael Moore. It is comprehensive, detailed, and a real howler. I sort of knew that this guy was a fool, but the truth is it’s a lot more than that. He is a brazen-faced liar, a lousy knave, an ass, a secure ass, and his guts are made of puddings! It is worth a read over strong coffee or a couple of shots of Jack Daniels.    

BBC crisis

Biased-BBC follows the credibility crisis of the BBC, and it is not merely related to WMD issue in Iraq. Andrew Sullivan is covering it as well, and he is very hopeful that this will shake up the BBC, much like the Jayson Blair crisis shook up the New York Times. The Guardian, no less, is reporting that there are cracks in the BBC already showing; there may be staff revolt brewing over the way the David Kelly source was used or misused.

Liberia, and a warning to Syria and Iraq

U.S. troops are ordered closer to Liberia. Some 10,000 people are now crammed into the US Embassy compound in Monrovia, while fighting intensifies as a shell hits the embassy, and Kofi Annan asks the US to intervene. In the meantime President Bush warns Syria and Iran to stop supporting terrorism.

Dog Empathy

Jonah Goldberg at NRO brought this WaPo story on dogs to my attention. It is worth reading, and not only because it is a report based on the research of some Hungarian scientists(!) as reported in a recent issue of Current Biology (available on line only to subscribers), but because there is something to it. Here is the start of the article: "As any poodle, spaniel or mutt owner knows, dogs have an uncanny ability to read human body language, whether it’s following a finger pointing the way to an errant tennis ball or spotting a glance that signals an imminent trip to the park.

But animal behavior experts have debated for years how much of this dogged perceptiveness is inborn and how much is learned by being raised around humans. New research, however, indicates that the capacity to communicate with humans silently through gestures and glances has become an inborn talent as a result of the thousands of years that dogs have lived, worked and played with people.

’They don’t speak like we do. But there is communication,’ said Adam Miklosi of Eotvos University in Budapest."

Armstrong, man possessed

Lance Armstrong is back in the saddle: "Riding like a man possessed, Lance Armstrong demolished his rivals in a drama-packed climb in the 15th stage of the Tour de France on Monday, recovering from a hard crash to stamp his authority on the race after two weeks of difficulties."

Idi Amin dying

Idi Amin, the brutal tyrant of Uganda, perhaps the most brutal in all of Africa, ever, (some standard, I must say) is dying. Surely the Poet had Amin in mind when he wrote: "The foot that leaves the print of blood where’er it walks." He is now in a coma in Saudi Arabia. He wants to be buried in Uganda. And he is going to be visited by his family. Should this universal wolf rest in peace?

Saddam’s Guerrillas

William Safire’s cogent op-ed by this name is worth reading. Safire says that Saddam’s strategy may be said to be based on six assumptions, which he outlines. They make sense. He also answers this question: "How best to deny Saddam’s putative return from his Elba, and to put this summer of discontent behind us?" Amir Taheri also has some insights into the current Iraqi situation that is worth a look. And Tacitus has some good news from Iraq (via Instapundit).

Gunplay is good for boys

This report out of Scotland is good news (thanks to The Remedy.) "Banning boys from playing with toy guns is futile and may even damage their development, a leading child psychologist has warned.

Confirming what many guilty parents long suspected, Penny Holland says boys will indulge in gunplay regardless of attempts by schools, nurseries and guardians to stop them.

Holland, who claims boys have fallen victim to politically correct dogma, claims that suppressing their need for boisterous play may be counter-productive.

Holland, senior lecturer in early childhood studies at London Metropolitan University, believes that boys who have been banned from playing at soldiers, pirates, or superheroes, become disruptive and live up to a ’bad boy’ image."

I am reminded of the following story. We were living in a college town California and my son was about four. We had a number of neighbors and their children over (perhaps it was a birthday party, I don’t remember) when I noticed that my son Joe had taken another boy his age by the hand and they walked down the hall toward his bedroom. I thought nothing of it until a few minutes later when I saw the boy’s mother walk toward the bedroom. And then I heard the mother scream. I ran back there as fast as possible, thinking that my son was caught in the midst of practicing cannibalism or something almost as bad. Well, here is what I found. Joe had laid out all of his toy guns on the bed (maybe six or seven) and he was proudly showing them to the boy from next door. He was kindly offering the boy the opportunity to pick one, so they could play. The wide-eyed boy was about to choose when his mother walked in. I asked her what happened, why had she screamed. She said she screamed when she saw the toy guns (she knew they were toys); she said it was the most awful thing she had ever seen. She was horrified. She grabbed her son and went home to her husband, a professor of English at the local state college. Well, I always knew she was wrong, and now modern science is proving me right.

Lance Armstrong flagging?

Lance Armstrong, by his own admission, is not doing as well as he thought he might. Although in first place in the overall standings, he has admitted that during the last few days, "something’s not going right." While this sounds ominous, note the end of the story, in which he says that he felt better today than yesterday, and quite a bit better than he did two days ago. I trust he’s right, and that he starts clicking.

Academic Pomo-babble

Robert Fulford explains how being incoherent isn’t enough in academic writing, you also have to "Make simple ideas complicated, and complicated ideas incomprehensible." Or, "The best pomo-babble requires a high level of jargon density. One word or two won’t get you there. You need four key words in any major sentence. In pomo-babble it’s appropriate to praise, for instance, a transgressive challenge to the valorization of hegemonic narrativity."  

Tyranny’s Children

Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of the just published Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, writes an op-ed on the themes of the book.   

Men and Women, different minds

Psychology Today runs a readable article on differences between the sexes. Because of certain scientific discoveries, it is now safe to claim that there are natural differences between men and women. These differences may also explain, for example, why women live longer than men, although they breakdown more. They may also explain why the Poet has Lucetta saying, in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, "I have no other but a woman’s reason: I think him so because I think him so." Here are a few lines, taken out of context, but the whole is worth a look:

"The white matter in women’s brains is concentrated in the corpus callosum, which links the brain’s hemispheres, and enables the right side of the brain to pitch in on language tasks. The more difficult the verbal task, the more global the neural participation required--a response that’s stronger in females.

Women have another heady advantage--faster blood flow to the brain, which offsets the cognitive effects of aging. Men lose more brain tissue with age, especially in the left frontal cortex, the part of the brain that thinks about consequences and provides self-control."

"The difference between the sexes may boil down to this: dividing the tasks of processing experience. Male and female minds are innately drawn to different aspects of the world around them. And there’s new evidence that testosterone may be calling some surprising shots.

Women’s perceptual skills are oriented to quick--call it intuitive--people reading. Females are gifted at detecting the feelings and thoughts of others, inferring intentions, absorbing contextual clues and responding in emotionally appropriate ways. They empathize. Tuned to others, they more readily see alternate sides of an argument. Such empathy fosters communication and primes females for attachment.

Women, in other words, seem to be hard-wired for a top-down, big-picture take. Men might be programmed to look at things from the bottom up (no surprise there).

Men focus first on minute detail, and operate most easily with a certain detachment. They construct rules-based analyses of the natural world, inanimate objects and events. In the coinage of Cambridge University psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen, Ph.D., they systemize."

Dusty Baker’s dust-up

Jon Entine writes in The Wall Street Journal about this touchy subject: Dusty Baker said the other day that "blacks and Latins take the heat better than most whites." Make of this what you will, but the era of the human genome is upon us, and, while many good medical things will come from it (no doubt), there are some things about my genes I prefer not knowing.

David Kelly suicide

The suicide of David Kelly, the scientist for the British Ministry of Defence, happened because he was put under "intolerable" pressure by the government and the BBC. The BBC has admitted that Kelly was the source of its reporting on the Iraqi WMD question. Kelly had denied the charge. Tony Blair said he will not resign over the issue.

Casablanca bombing

A French Islamic convert has been accused of masterminding the Casablanca bombings in May that killed over 40 people. Morgan Meis argues why bombing Casablanca was important for al Qaeda, and what it has to do with the movie Casablanca and Rick’s Cafe American. Charming.

Zogby Poll on Bush

Zogby claims that a new poll found the following: "President George W. Bush’s job performance rating has slipped to 53% positive, his lowest since the terrorist attacks in 2001, according to a poll of 1,004 likely U.S. voters by Zogby International. His negative rating reached 46%, just under his pre-9/11 unfavorable of 49%."

Baylor University

Here is the news report on Friday’s public meeting between the Baylor administration and disgruntled alumni. I had mentioned this a few days ago; the president of Baylor is trying to do something very interesting in American higher education: creating an excellent university, while maintaining its Christian heart. Rod Dreher attended the meeting, and wrote about it at The Corner.

Iraq’s ecological decline

Jared Diamond is an interesting man on first sight(see his "Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies," Norton, 1997). He is full of interesting facts about the different ways peoples have developed. That he gives too much emphasis to environmental factors in order to overcome what he thinks have been racial theories of development is understandable, yet imperfect. Human decisions (not based on race, of course) are just one of the many things he ignores. Here he focuses on Iraq and the fertile crescent and asks why it was the cradle of civilization (an accident of biogeography) and why it has declined (ecological suicide) so precipitiously. And, of course, he allows himself to pontificate about us, and what we should do about the fact that all political crises are really environmental crises. No surprise, and he becomes less interesting the more you think about what he says, but interesting enough for a quick read.