Friday, March 31, 2006

Mason Net

In anticipation of Saturday's George Mason vs. Florida semi-final game at the NCAA tournament, I wrote a little appreciation of the GMU fellows and their accomplishment.

Here it is, over at The American Spectator.

And here is a little taste:

Back in 1954, it was still not possible for an all-black team to win at the Illinois High School Association's statewide basketball championship, known in the vernacular as -- you guessed it -- March Madness. But Paxton Lumpkin, a 6-foot guard who was later compared with Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, led his DuSable High School team to the Chicago championship, earning a shot at the statewide crown. They dominated the first three rounds and made it to the IHSA finals against Mt. Vernon. Nine out of ten players on Mt. Vernon's squad were white (although the lone black was their leading scorer), and the refs were committed to their winning.

In the last minute of the championship game, DuSable closed to within one point and gained possession of the ball. As Lumpkin brought the ball up the court, he could see what would happen. Mt. Vernon would have someone wrap him up and the ref would never call the foul. So he suddenly let the ball fly from behind the midcourt line. It arced gracefully toward the hoop and for an improbable moment seemed destined to fall through. But it caught some rim and bounced out. Mt. Vernon rebounded and eventually won 76-70.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Immigration and Political Divisions

Forgive me for asking, but is it really only the Republicans for whom the immigration issue is divisive, as one might conclude from the mainstream press discussions? After all, to the extent that the importation of low-skilled labor, whether legal or not, depresses the wages of all low-skilled workers---an assumption not quite as obvious as seemingly is the case, since immgrants increase both the supply of labor and the demand for goods and thus other kinds of labor---it ought to be the case that low-wage workers and Hispanics, both important groups within the Democratic Party coalition, would come down on opposite sides of the question. Or more specifically: It simply cannot be the case, it seems to me, that Hispanics on the one hand and blacks and poor whites on the other systematically would find themselves allies on this question. My guess is that the popular image of Republicans torn apart and Democrats united on this issue cannot be right.

Beyond Kyoto—to Shanghai and Delhi

Some in the media are finally starting to understand that the real pollution problems of our time are not caused by "rich" nations' overuse of resources; the main cause now is developing nation's inefficient use of resources. ABC News notes this in an interesting article today:

Americans are surrounded by the fruits of Asia's explosive rise, and years of steady importing and outsourcing have created winners and losers on both sides of the globalization boom. But the next phase could prove harmful for everyone — because even the air we breathe could be made in China.

For years, air quality in the United States has been steadily improving, which is why atmospheric scientists were puzzled when they recently measured sulphur, mercury and PCBs — an industrial byproduct pollutant — blowing onto the Washington coast. Using a pollution-sniffing airplane and computer models, they traced the unwelcome import 3,000 miles across the Pacific.

One trip to Shanghai or Delhi and the source is obvious: A grimy haze, thick as London fog, covers the teeming urban centers. Seven of the world's 10 most-polluted cities are in China. "Clean air days" are counted in Beijing, and the official air-quality goal is "only" three days of sun-blotting pollution each week.

It is the price of a growth rate unprecedented in human history. A perfect storm of old and new pollution. Hundreds of millions still heat and light their homes with crude coal and kerosene while they steadily move from bicycles to Buicks.

That is why the Kyoto Protocol was such a bad idea: it placed drastic restrictions on nations that were already trying to clean up their air and have been greatly successful at it (the United States even more than the EU), while giving a free pass to the worst polluters. When even conventional wisdom advocates such as ABC News start to understand this, we begin to have a chance of accomplishing common-sense environmentalism in both the wealthier nations and their high-polluting developing counterparts.

Moving Ahead

A friend of mine, given to glumness about matters Middle Eastern, dismisses me as a half-witted optimist. Yes, I conceded, but I can’t help it if my kupp is half-full (she is sufficiently fluent to know that kupp means head in Yiddish). Now my powers of positive thinking will be heavily taxed, as I try to answer the President’s call to look at the bright side of events in Iraq. When the Prez is moved to bid more good humor, it’s our duty to respond with good morbid humor.

The truth is that I was very fond of Gallo’s humor when, like Billy Joel, “I wore a younger man’s clothes”. But then the younger man called the cops, and since that time I’m laying off the wine. So to the gallows themselves we must repair with our heads held high. We rely on the Pythagorean Theorem which concludes that ‘only a square would not go high on pot to the noose’. Or, as it is popularly restated: a square, to be square, must see square.

Yes, there is one seriously encouraging phenomenon of the no-noose-is-good-noose variety. No more beheadings.


REMINDS ME OF OUR PARLOR GAME which featured a funny Q-and-A with the ‘per’ words. Like this: “How does an actor get paid?” “Per forming.” “How does a soldier get paid?” “Per mission.” “A jailer?” “Per durance.” “An executioner?” Here a debate raged. I thought that “per capita” was funny, but broke the one-word rule. My favored answer was “per severance”. And sure enough, our perseverance has paid off and the beheadings have been… er, cut off.

Why? Who knows? Maybe a CIA guy will do a tell-all in a few years about how we sent Joe Pesci to Zarqawi with eight heads in a duffel bag and he capitulated. Maybe they got bad reviews for their al-Jazeera videos (“Hair-raising” – Cairo Proctor, “Bristles with victimhood” – Beirut Force), despite the dramatic recaps. Arabs may have reacted badly, fearing they were next, a dis-turban image. And Zarqawi wants to be thought of as Zorro, not to have Canadian Arabs saying ‘Off with his zed’. Or maybe someone else is in charge now who has a head on his shoulders.

This may seem like a small enough blessing. The bad guys in Iraq still do dirty rotten things. Mayhem to men, and they may hem your burqa if you’re a woman. They inflict daily punishment on the capital, and capital punishment for them would be capital. Still it’s an important step that they no longer look to decapitation as a way to get ahead, if that’s the phrase I want.

We recall a fairly recent foe, once seemingly implacable, that specialized in beheading (and suicide bombers, for that matter). Namely, Japan in World War Two. At the time, this sort of atrocious behavior made it appear like these people could never be rehabilitated to function in civilized society. Now all this seems like a memory that is jarringly discordant with today’s Japanese people. They seem content to make ever smaller cars and ever larger televisions: the worst atrocity they visit on the West these days is to charge them large sums of money to eat raw fish (which they probably harvest from the waters around Hiroshima and Nagasaki).

Seeing the terrorists forswear beheading is hopeful. It’s a whit, or perhaps a half-whit, of progress. It tells us that maybe they can stop losing their heads and make accommodation with reality. And although there are no intellectual reasons to anticipate that they will suddenly mature, the quirks of insurgent movements are unpredictable. Nobody defeated the SDS or the Baader-Meinhof Gang or the Japanese Red Army or the Black Panthers, they melted away like yesterday’s snow.

Those are my grounds for optimism. The first clue to any degree of normalcy, of their recognizing that the world is out there, that diplomacy or politics have meaning, that they need to moderate their escapades to conform to some level of public opinion, reignites my optimism. The kupp is much less than half-full, but it is not completely gone. There just might yet be a tomorrow brighter than today.

For today, we still indulge our grim chuckles amid the horror. Some will sniff at the escape into humor, but this is a legitimate haven against the incursion of barbarism. (Yeah, yeah, I’ll clip the barber joke right here and end on a serious note.) Let us hope that Iraq is on a track to civility. What it needs next is a solid, secure head of state.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

On Testoterone

I'm a matchmaker, a headhunter by profession. I see a vacuum, a possible synergy, an unrealized potential, and my creativity leaps to the fore. It's a vocation in its way. I love it.

Don't know if it makes me a moralist, a feminist or just a man who loves women, but I won't introduce any of the men I know to any of my wife's unattached friends. I admire these women, every single (!) one, and the men are still boys, adolescents. They are not worthy. I couldn't live with myself.

Our Michael Simpson questions the wisdom of the recent innovation of coed dorms below, and relates it to the recent violation of certain female exotic entertainers at a Duke sports team party.

Is this incident related to feminism, feminization, or gender egalitarianism? I asked the wise Mrs. TVD, who knows of such things, who was of the opinion that such male oppression could easily happen in any age. Still, she was also of the opinion that the specialness and magic of the weaker yet stronger sex might suffer degradation in a base environment like the coed dorm.

Now, it seems there's tacit agreement among all that whether by the academy's design (my opinion) or just inevitable consequence, coed dorm living results in greater sexual experimentation. (We may assume that most male 18-year-olds have always been sexually liberated: the historical problem was always finding someone to be liberated with.)

Is it fuddy-duddy to wonder whether sexual liberation has been good for women? On the personal level, questioning the proposition that psychologically, copious experimentation is harmless; on the macro level, whether easy sex has changed the behavior and attitudes of the male of the species.

The greatest challenge of any society is civilizing its young men, and I do believe many of our current societal problems rest largely on men's disrespect of women, and that's certainly relevant to consider in the hiring and subsequent dehumanization (brutality!) of the women in question.

I do know from scouting about the internet that among the black community, the sexes are almost at war, and bitches and ho's is just the tip of the iceberg. Many on the outside would be quite surprised, I think. The battle is at a more low-level intensity in the majority culture, but as they say, when white America catches cold, black folks get pneumonia.

I've had the notion that Western civilization, especially in just this past 1000 years, has been on a course toward the true emancipation of womyn, that we've been on to something. But now I think that the pendulum has swung from protection/oppression to exploitation/oppression.

Women are not men. Daughters are not sons. These days, we forget that, don't we? Does egalitarianism breed contempt? Is woman the victim of her own success?

Oh, so they're interested in moral formation after all....

Duke's lacrosse team has managed to thoroughly embarrass itself and the rest of the school by hiring strippers for a party and then, allegedly, taunting one of the strippers (who was black, while the team is almost entirely white) with racial taunts and then (again, allegedly) raping
her. A real class act, these guys.

The idea that college atheletes (or college students more broadly) would be badly behaving is hardly surprising, but what's interesting here is the reaction of some of the commentators - they want the team members (and college students more broadly) to understand that hiring strippers is a bad thing in and of itself. It's degrading to women, they say. True enough, but isn't it interesting that this kind of moralism (of which I heartily approve) always shows back up, even when universities try as hard as they can to say that they don't want to take moralist stands. Sure, hiring strippers is a bad thing for women, but so is having coed floors where men are free to roam at all times of the day and night. So is turning a blind eye to the excessive use of alcohol (since almost all sexual assaults on college campuses are related to alcohol use). So is the promotion of sexual promiscuity.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Iraqi People Speak

I think hanging in there in Iraq is a principled position. We broke it, we bought it, to quote a former Secretary of State. I also think advocating withdrawing the troops immediately is principled, too, altho I disagree with it. Leaving out the casus belli (WMDs, UN Resolution 1441, etc., ad nauseum) discussion, this recent survey of the Iraqi people, if accurate, should be probative. I do think that the American people (most of us, anyway) want to do the right thing now regardless of party stripe.

Most Iraqis feel a continued US/UK military presence exacerbates the butchery. I happen to disagree on the whole because there is a tendency in the non-First World to blame external causes for one's own society's deficiencies. But I could very well be wrong, and I don't live in Iraq.

Still, many Iraqis feel the troops should remain in the near term. Virtually none for the long term, of course. Who would? How embarrassing, that any society should become the ward of another state.

As for the denouement, we are already there---regardless of the ineptitude of the administration's PR, the reality is that we are already in a postwar Iraq: 77% of the Iraqi people feel all this chaos and suffering in deposing Saddam was worth it. Howbouthat?

I myself am surprised, mostly that the populace can discern so quickly that compared to the hell that was Saddam's Iraq, the current purgatory pales. Contrary to popular belief, people are not stupid.

Lawsuits and Security

The ACLU and several other organizations have brought two well publicized law suits against the Bush administration on the issue of “unauthorized” domestic spying. Of course, none of the plaintiffs can demonstrate that they have been targeted by the surveillance program and the claim that this is domestic spying is not technically accurate since only those conversations with a suspected terrorists outside the United States are considered.

Plaintiffs include a gaggle of left wingers including the Council on American Islamic Relations, Greenpeace, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, a writer for the Nation among others. Their argument is that the present administration is in contravention of the law since the president lost the authority to conduct warrantless surveillance domestically after the passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. The administration counters this claim with the argument that surveillance was authorized with the 2001 congressional resolution allowing for the use of force against al Qaeda.

Lost in the swelter of claims and counterclaims is the context for this litigation. The war on terror has not ended and the threat posed by the terrorists remains real and frightening.

While the president insists all measures must be taken to assure American security, the plaintiffs seem to be asserting that the only threat is the abridgement of the law and the erosion of civil liberties.

On the day the lawsuit was filed, al Manar, Hezballah’s main vehicle for spreading anti-American propaganda asked, “What structure built of gray sandstone in 1792 became a source of all oppressive decisions the world over? The answer: “the White House.”

In May 2004 Sheik Nasrallah said he is prepared for martyrdom. “Let Bush, Powell, Rumsfeld and all those tyrants in Washington hear… there will only be room for great sacrifice, for the call to martyrdom.”

The editor of Egyptian weekly Al Arabi is quoted in Memri as saying, “Anti-Americanism is like music” to his ears. He calls America “a plague” and “an ongoing crime.”

The head of the Sunni religious courts in Lebanon, Sheik Muhammad Kar’an, called America “the garbage of all nations.”

A professor of political science at Notre Dame University in Lebanon, Dr. George Hajjar said, “America is the New Nazism.” He added, “I hope that every patriotic and Islamic Arab will participate in this war, and will shift this war not only to America, but to all corners… wherever America may be.”

Anis al Naggash, who was involved in terrorist attacks in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, appeared on Al Manar in August 2005. He said, “The U.S. is the enemy of Arabs and Muslims… every person must resist it… if he can resist with weapons, it is his duty, mandated by the Koran. Any cleric with knowledge of Islam must declare jihad against the U.S., England, and their allies.”

As late as this January three would be terrorists were arrested in Italy after vowing to launch an attack in the U.S. that would dwarf 9/11. Curiously with the exception of the Philadelphia Inquirer this story was conspicuously ignored by the U.S. press corps.

Through conversations that were wiretapped, Italian officials heard Algerian terrorists plan to kill tens of thousands of Americans. This story raises two interesting questions: Did the press ignore the story because the report would support President Bush’s use of domestic surveillance and doesn’t this story portend the very frightening scenario that must be thwarted?

There are those in our midst who prefer legal battles against the administration because they fear a loss of civil liberties, but they do not fear, or appear not to fear, radical Islamists intent on their destruction.

Can there be any doubt that if fanatics in various corners of the globe could get their hands on nuclear weapons, they would be used?

Can there be any doubt that radical Islam is intent on causing harm to the United States, its citizens and our allies?

And can there be any doubt that a toxic poison has been set loose worldwide that could have apocalyptic repercussions if we do nothing about it?

President Bush, in fact any future president, has an obligation to take those steps necessary to provide for national security. It is not merely sad, but dangerous that many civil libertarians do not appreciate what is at stake in this global war. If the plaintiffs’ efforts in the forthcoming lawsuits are successful, another weapon in the war against terror will have been rendered nugatory. Is there any wonder about who benefits from such a decision?

Herbert London is president of Hudson Institute and professor emeritus of New York University. He is the author of Decade of Denial (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2001). London maintains a website,

I Am Francis Beckwith

As the news of last Friday's fit of pantywaist pique at Baylor spread throughout the blogosphere this weekend, I started reading the following often enough that it began to alarm me:

You see now why conservative academics keep their heads down? Blog anonymously? Bite their tongues? They're afraid they'll end up like Francis Beckwith.

I sympathize with this position. I agreed with the precept when "Michael Simpson" joined our stable. I understand. I have done the same. But now we must consider, soberly and carefully, whether we can continue like this.

The rebel slaves of Rome did not really stand up one by one and shout "I am Spartacus!" The Danish King Christian X did not really don a yellow star and declare "We are all Jews now." But these mythic vignettes hold our imagination and inspire us because they encapsulate something true. The slave army really did stand with Spartacus, to their deaths. The Danes really did defy the Germans and save almost all the Danish Jews from the camps.

Wouldn't it be something if fifty years from now, someone wrote to, asking if it were really true that in 2006, hundreds of professors and researchers opened their office windows and bellowed down into the quad below, I am Francis Beckwith! We are all Francis Beckwith now! And kept shouting until the whited sepulchures of the ivory towers shook and fell, and the sunlight streamed in through the cracks.

All this is easy for me to say. I left the university twenty years ago. I risk no personal or professional loss; I'm offering to hold the coat while someone else has the fistfight. Do not construe this as criticism of anyone whose prudential decision is to keep quiet, for it's not. It's criticism of those who deny that conservative ideas are kept out of our institutions of the mind, in the face of evidence that just piles higher and higher.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Noble Laura's It

It was time to write a tribute to Laura Ingraham for effectively carrying the ball, the water and the day on a series of major issues. It's a doity job but someone's gotta do it...

Here is a smidgen:

For months now, talk radio hosts have been hammering home the complaint that major media outlets are hampering the war effort in Iraq by reporting only the bad news. This has been a very effective argument, rallying the troops of the conservative base, and occasionally, when their broadcasts reached the front, rallying the real troops. Yet it hardly resonated beyond the echo chamber of alternative-media geeks; people who wear their Michael Reagan T-shirt and sip from a Sean Hannity coffee mug while perusing G. Gordon Liddy's newsletter.

Last week all that changed when Esquire Laura (as opposed to Doctor Laura) was a guest on the Today Show and made these same points. Suddenly the media world was in an uproar, with features everywhere on the subject. Responses ranged from denying that it was so to pleading guilty-with-an-explanation by citing the dramatic immediacy of violence to the ultimate dog-ate-my-homework excuse by the New York Times: not enough manpower to go scout out the good news. Why was Laura Ingraham's voice heard where so many of her colleagues had found deaf ears? Answer: the TV folks listened because she was one of their own.